Possible royal tombs discovered in Syria

Bronze Age grave tomb indicates "royal inhabitants"

Part of the donkey skeleton excavation site © Johns Hopkins University
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A Bronze Age pristine tomb in Syria had already caused a sensation six years ago when it was discovered. Now American archaeologists have snatched another secret from her: she is not alone. The tomb, filled with human and animal bones, golden and silver treasures and undamaged artefacts, is just one of eight other burial sites near the Syrian town of Umm el-Marra. It may even be a royal grave.

The tombs, newly discovered by researchers from the American Johns Hopkins University, are located about 50 kilometers east of the city of Aleppo, at Umm el-Marra in the Jabbul Plain of northern Syria. With significant differences in ceramic objects found in the tombs, archaeologists conclude that the tombs were erected in succession, between 2, 500 and 2, 200 years before Christ. Since no more than eight skeletons per grave were found, it could be the burial sites of different families or dynasties.

Umm el-Marra is considered by archaeologists as a possible place for the legendary city of Tuba, one of the first cities of ancient Syria and capital of a small kingdom. The town is located on a highly frequented at the time connection between the Mesopotamian Ur and Aleppo and was therefore probably a kind of trading center for wool and dairy products from the East and grain from the West. The nearby largest salt lake in Syria also contributed to the economic importance of the place.

Offerings point to royal tombs

The newly discovered tombs show signs of ritual sacrifices from humans and animals, including the skeletons of children, beheaded donkeys and puppy bones. "Given these findings, it is obvious that this grave complex is a royal cemetery, " said Glenn Schwartz, professor of archeology at Johns Hopkins University. "Animal sacrifices were certainly an important part of this culture. Victims of sheep and other animals were offered to the gods as food, but also to the dead ancestors. "

Archaeologist Glenn Schwartz with animal skeletons in Umm el-Marra © Johns Hopkins University

While donkeys and mules are not highly regarded today, in the old tuba they were considered royal and even superior to horses. Because they were recently domesticated and their possessions therefore prestigious. "I suspect that the sacrifice of these animals in our graves has something to do with their connection to the highest ranks of society, " said Schwartz. "It is as if today a rich person is buried with his or her Rolls Royce." The location of the graves also points to high-ranking dead: The graves are in the highest and the highest The most central part of the city would have been visible from everywhere and would have dominated the local landscape, explains the archaeologist. display

However, there is still a lot to explore and analyze before the archaeologists understand the tomb complex and what it can tell them about rule and rituals in early Syria. We hope the new finds from Umm el-Marra will expand our knowledge of the first complex societies in Syria. Because these are closely connected with the advanced cultures of Mesopotamia, but have their own character and identity, "said Schwartz.

(Johns Hopkins University, October 25, 2006 - NPO)