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


The Royal Hypogeum and Tomb VII of the Middle/Late Bronze-Age palace from Qatna (Tell Mishrife, Syria): Burial places of the elite?

CARSTEN WITZEL1, SUSANNE DEGENHARDT1,2, HEIKE DOHMANN-PFÄLZNER2, PETER PFÄLZNER2 and STEFAN FLOHR1,3.

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

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Excavations at the ancient city of Qatna brought to light one of the largest palaces from the Middle Bronze Age in the Near East. In the years 2002 and 2009, two rock-cut chamber tombs - the four-chambered Royal Hypogeum (RH) and the double-chambered Tomb VII - were discovered underneath the palace. The tombs had been in use until the Late Bronze-Age and remained undisturbed after the destruction of the Palace c. 1340 BCE. Precious grave goods and the integration of the tombs into the palace architecture suggest that members of the royal family (RH) and members of the social elite have been interred in them.

Except for a few articulated elements / skeletons, most of the bones in both tombs were found commingled and more or less highly fragmented. For the RH the minimum number of individuals (MNI) was estimated at 20 whereas it was much higher in Tomb VII (preliminary data suggest 78). Individuals from both sexes and of all age groups were represented. Osteoarchaeological indicators point to overall favourable living conditions for the interred adults in both tombs (very low prevalence of traumatic lesions and degenerative joint disease, low prevalence of caries along with generally minor tooth wear). Several bones exhibit changes indicative of DISH and HFI; conditions which have been linked to metabolic disorders. The study of the skeletal remains thus provides interesting insights into the life style of the “social elite” of the ancient city of Qatna.

The project is financially supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG PF 275/9-2).

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