However, 14C age determinations can only be performed on organic material, not on metal. Therefore, in the case of the Prêles find, it was not the hand itself that was dated, but rather the adhesive that craftsmen used 3,500 years ago to attach a gold sheet to the bronze. “For the analysis, we had five milligrams of plant material at our disposal. It was probably birch tar, a common Bronze Age adhesive,” explains Sönke Szidat, head of the LARA 14C laboratory. “For us, such tiny amounts of material are part of everyday life, but for archaeological dating it is unusual.” The result of the analysis: the bronze hand was made between 1507 and 1431 BC.
What the nearly life-sized hand was used for and what its significance was is still largely unclear. The University of Bern recently hosted an international colloquium to try to shed some light on the find from the Bernese Jura. It seems clear that the gold bracelet underlined the special status of the person buried with the bronze hand.