The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Reconstructing a multiple infant burial from the commingled bone assemblage of Tomb VII underneath the Bronze Age palace of Qatna (Tell Mishrife, Syria)

STEFAN FLOHR1,2, SUSANNE DEGENHARDT1,3, HEIKE DOHMANN-PFÄLZNER3, PETER PFÄLZNER3 and CARSTEN WITZEL1.

1Department of Biology, University of Hildesheim, Germany, 2State Office for Cultural Heritage and Archaeology Thuringia, Weimar, Germany, 3Department of Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES), Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Germany

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In 2009, an undisturbed rock-cut tomb (Tomb VII) was discovered underneath the Middle Bronze Age royal palace of Qatna, Syria. Human skeletal remains dominated the assemblage, intermingled with precious grave goods and animal bones. The entire floor was covered with scattered bones and bone fragments that were partly embedded in sediments and reached a height of up to 44cm. Bone concentrations surrounded by remnants of wooden structures suggest that the remains had been located in wooden coffin boxes.

An area of presumably major significance was located close to the entrance. Compared to other locations within the tomb this area was characterized by a high concentration of precious pottery and a conspicuous accumulation of sediment. This sediment package contained a high number of infant bones scattered within a volume of c. 100 × 30 × 25cm as well as jewelry and remnants of wood. We present the results of the investigation of this burial based on a specifically developed documentation and recovery protocol for this excavation.

In total, 65 skeletal elements could be assigned to three individuals, (i) a perinatal, (ii) a neonatal to 1 year old, and (iii) a 1.0 to 1.5 year old individual. It is assumed that the bodies of the infants were originally deposited above each other in opposing orientations in a coffin located among the pottery. The origin of the sediment in this installation remains unclear, probably a mixture of rotten organic materials and sediment originating from the floor and the walls of the tomb.

Research supported by DFG (Grand-No. PF 275/9-2).

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