Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Mesopotamian Family Crypt Volume 49 Number 1, January/February 1996
by Jessica E. Saraceni

A 4,500-year-old cemetery containing some 150 tombs has been found at Tell es-Sweyhat on the Euphrates River in northern Syria. A University of Pennsylvania team led by Richard L. Zettler has explored one of the tombs. An oval chamber 12 by 15 feet, it contained the bones of at least ten people, possibly family members, along with a javelin and a variety of daggers and axes. A terra-cotta model discovered in the tomb resembles a covered wagon. Pig, sheep, goat, and cow bones, perhaps the remains of funerary offerings, were found on the chamber floor. Birds' eggs had been placed in the eye sockets of a sheep or goat skull, and more than 20 pigeon-sized bird skeletons and eggs had been deposited in terra-cotta vessels. "The tombs and their contents add up to a very unusual, surprising find," says Zettler, who believes DNA analysis will indicate that family members were buried there.

© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America