Cave peo­ple am­pu­tated fingers in re­li­gious ri­tu­als, new SFU study sug­gests

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - WANYEE LI Full story at thes­­cou­ver

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.

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