The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Isotopic evidence for the origins of homicide victims from Qasr Hallabat


1Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University, 2Department of Geological Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 3Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona

March 26, 2015 , Archview Ballroom Add to calendar

Excavation of Qasr Hallabat, Jordan recovered the remains of six individuals from the bottom of an internal cistern. The qasr, once a luxurious Umayyad desert retreat, was abandoned after the fall of the caliphate in AD 749, and shortly thereafter was partially destroyed during an episode of seismic activity. The individuals, who died around 772-895 CAL AD, showed perimortem and blunt force trauma caused presumably by outsiders unconcerned with contaminating a water source. Although it was evident that the individuals were victims of homicide, why the corpses would be dumped in a viable water source remains unclear.

Strontium and oxygen isotopes obtained from dental enamel were used to determine if the individuals were from region similar to Qasr Hallabat. These data can be used to illuminate the circumstances surrounding their violent deaths. Comparing these human ratios with archaeological faunal samples and published data on regional oxygen and strontium isotope variation, indicate that these individuals grew up in an area similar to Hallabat’s. If they were indeed locals, then it appears that they 1) migrated from the region after childhood only to return and have a violent confrontation with another non-local group or 2) were locals attacked by a non-local population passing through the region. Both hypotheses indicate that the Hallabat region continued to be an economic crossroads even after the post-Umayyad decline.