Cave people amputated fingers in religious rituals, new SFU study suggests
Early in human history, people were willing to make enormous sacrifices in order to satisfy their deities. Some cave dwellers even cut off their own fingers, according to new research.
It was a mystery archeologists couldn’t figure out for decades. Cave paintings nearly 27,000 years old sometimes depicted hands with missing fingers — but why?
A team of anthropologists and archeologists from British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University now believe humans in the Upper Paleolithic era amputated their fingers in religious rituals and that the incredibly painful experience might have helped groups of humans form intensely strong bonds.
Master’s student Brea Mccauley and supervisors David Maxwell and Mark Collard combed through records dating back to the 1600s for examples of researchers and travellers who noted the practice of finger amputation.
Mccauley, who led the team, was surprised to find examples of finger amputation on every continent humans inhabit.
“We did not expect, in the slightest, to find 121 societies that engaged in finger amputation,” Mccauley said in an interview.
The team posited that finger amputation was likely done as either a sign of mourning or as a sacrifice in order to appeal to a deity for assistance.
These are examples of negative hand images with missing fingers in France.