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Art Imitating Death: Are Depictions of the Iconic ‘Crucified Clench’ Accurate?

Friday, March 29, 2013 8:08 am EDT

The ancient practice of crucifixion is as grisly as it is infamous; yet for a method of execution which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, many aspects remain shrouded in mystery. Crucifixion is a central aspect of Christian iconography and art; however, the characteristic hand posture of the victims, known as the ‘crucified clench,’ remains a source of debate. A unique review of crucifixion history and median nerve anatomy, published in Brain and Behavior, reveals how this iconic gesture resulted from positioning on the cross, rather than from direct trauma of impalement of the hand or wrist.

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