October Sunset, Turkey

An Osteobiographical Narrative from Alalakh

First, a Preface

            I have selected some of the osteological and archaeological data from the Alalakh burials excavated in 2003-2004 at Alalakh (Tell Atchana; Yener, ed. 2010, Woolley 1955), which are described and analyzed in much greater detail in my dissertation (and can be downloaded in its entirety on my homepage), to interpret in the format of fictive osteobiographical narrative. The narrative reconstruction presented here is based on burials that date from Level VI (Middle Bronze Age IIC, or the second half of the 16th century BCE). These are stories: although they are based on human skeletal remains and their archaeological contexts of burial, which have been interpreted within relevant socio-historic contexts, the personalities and events in the narrative are products of my imagination. The personal names have been taken from Alalakh texts (Wiseman 1953) contemporary with the individual burials, although there is no way of knowing the actual names of the people whose skeletal remains I have analyzed. I have provided endnotes that explain the details of the socio-historic contexts in which the narrative is situated, as well as the details of each burial’s osteology and grave goods.  A bibliography is provided for all of the sources cited in the annotations, as well as a chronological framework to make sense of the relevant timeframe. For a more detailed discussion of the theoretical and methodological rationales underlying these narrative reconstructions, see Chapter 2 of my dissertation or additional recent publications listed on my homepage.

            I believe that narratives are a key tool in effective public outreach, because they can be “more honest, readable and exciting” (Hodder 1989: 273) to the public than traditional anthropological reports. I hope that these stories give my audience some idea of how archaeological and osteological data are collected, analyzed, and interpreted: in other words, that a window is opened into the archaeological imagination. The next step will be to make the narratives even more widely accessible, by translating them into languages other than English. My goal is that they first be translated into Turkish, as Turkey is the nation within whose boundaries Alalakh lies.

            I also want to emphasize that these stories are open-ended: they represent only one possible understanding of the material remains, and they by no means represent the final word. Consequently, I ask my audience (professional and non-professional, English speakers or otherwise) for feedback on these narratives: What do you like or dislike about these stories? In what other ways do you think the data could be interpreted? Where is more (or less) explanatory information needed in the endnotes?

Next, a Disclaimer

            This dissertation is based on data collected between 2004 and 2006, during which time I was Mortuary Specialist and Osteologist for the Expedition to Alalakh (Tell Atchana). I am especially indebted to its Director, Dr. K. Aslıhan Yener and its Senior Field Supervisor, Murat Akar, for for granting me logistical support and access to excavation records, photos and drawings, artifacts, and, most of all, the human skeletal remains. During preliminary data collection, Dr. J. David Schloen and Amir Sumaka’i Fink also provided invaluable guidance and support. The support of additional many people and institutions helped make this dissertation possible. Dr. Bob Preucel was my dissertation chair, my beacon of light and hope in a dark research/writing tunnel, and my friend; I am forever grateful to him. Drs. Janet Monge and Holly Pittman formed the rest of my dissertation committee at the University of Pennsylvania. They also provided incredibly constructive feedback and crucial guidance for this project and throughout my education at Penn. The Louis J. Kolb foundation generously provided three years of financial support that facilitated fieldwork, research and writing. A fellowship from the American Research Institute in Turkey/Department of State funded the 2004 season of data collection.

            Any errors contained herein are entirely my own. Unless noted, all photographs were taken by me. In addition, the ideas presented here are entirely my own: they do not represent the interpretations or opinions of the Expedition to Alalakh (Tell Atchana) or any of its current or former personnel. For additional and/or alternative perspectives, I encourage readers to consult other expedition publications, such as:       

Yener, K.A., ed. (2010) Tell Atchana, Ancient Alalakh, Volume I: The 2003-2004 Excavation Seasons. Istanbul: Koç Universitesi Yayınları.

Yener, K.A. (In press)  A Plaster Encased Multiple Burial at Alalakh: Cist Tomb 3017, in R. B. Koehl ed., Amilla: The Quest for Excellence. Studies in Honor of Günter Kopcke on the occasion of his 75th Birthday. Philadelphia:  INSTAP Academic Press.

Now, for the Narrative itself (adapted from Boutin 2008: 254-259, 302-305)

MONTH OF PAGRI,1 REIGN OF IDRIMI2

House of Wari-muša3

The sun was setting in the west as I pulled my old bones up the stairs to the roof of the house. The air was becoming cooler quickly, but not any less moist. Tiny pricks of sweat erupted on my skin as I climbed, acting as a beacon to the mosquitoes who were just arriving for their evening feast.4 As I ascended toward the sky, so did the moon. This evening, it was a full, bright orb—a good time to share stories about our deceased ancestors, while the powers of the netherworld are at their weakest.5 Best to do it now, before the moon begins to disappear at the end of the month. Safest to do it now. Even when the doors of the gate at the cemetery are barred and the spirits have been given the choicest offerings of meat, fruit, and beer, the most evil ones still manage to find a way through.6

I heard small feet padding up the dusty steps behind me, next to me, then in front of me. Looking up at me expectantly as I finally reached the rooftop, the boy spoke: “Grandfather, why are we eating the evening meal on the roof tonight?” My son’s voice boomed up the stairs as he climbed up, “He told you already: this month of Pagri, when the grain has been harvested but the new seeds not yet sown, is when the Lands of the Living and the Dead7 are closest and the spirits may pass between them. It is a time to pay special remembrance and honor those who have already passed into the Land of the Dead. If we do not, we may incur their punishment.”8 The boy shivered, although whether it was from the damp, cooling air or the thought of evil spirits, I do not know.

Just then, my daughter-in-law passed me, a flickering brazier in one hand and a basket, filled with loaves of emmer bread still warm from the taboun and fragrant with roasted onions and garlic, in the other. “So tonight,” I explained as my joints creaked down onto the reed mats, “we share our meal on the roof with the setting sun and the rising moon. I am old and gray and stooped,9 approaching the Long Days of life,10 and I have been fortunate enough to see the sons of my sons.  I have already passed my fields on to your father, but I can still share with you the stories of our ancestors, before my corpse joins theirs when I go forth into the fate of humanity."11 Taking a loaf from the basket and tearing off a chunk with my teeth, I felt a familiar hum as my teeth ground the gritty bread. I may be old, but at least nearly all of my teeth are still in my head and I am not forced to live on gruel like other gray-hairs.12 My son passed me a beaker of weak beer. I swished it around my mouth, my jaw popped hollowly and harshly,13 and I swallowed and began my tale.

“In the days before Idrimi, the hand of Nergal touched the land.14 Nowadays when people are cursed thus, the palace confines them to their homes; if necessary, entire villages may be moved to higher ground.15 But these were the days before the palace, when Alalakh had no king,16 and as soon as the plague touched the land it spread unchecked, like a fire sweeping through dry undergrowth. My uncle, Ehli-adu,17 was just coming into his own. As the eldest son, he had become head-of-household upon the passing of his father, and the main house and our family gods belonged to him.18 He also received the largest share of your grandfather’s land—the same land that your father now works every day.

Ehli-adu had achieved the age and now the means: it was time for him to build a household.19 He heard that Sumunnabi20 had just reached marriageable age:21 she was a rather small girl, but healthy and hard-working.22 So Ehli-adu arranged a meeting with her brother.23 Ah, but that’s where a bit of trouble arose. You see, no one could say my uncle wasn’t a hard worker: he rose early to drive his sheep into the fields and tended his family’s vineyard as the sun set.24 But he hadn’t been a healthy child,25 and coupled with all of that hard work, it had taken its toll on him. Ehli-adu was a bit off-center, you might say. All it meant was that his head leaned to the left and he favored his left side for the heavier work…but it did look rather odd.26 He might not have attracted so much attention if he hadn’t been one of the tallest men in the city.27 And the trouble with his mouth didn’t help either—what with his gums bleeding and teeth already starting to fall out.28 I suppose that my uncle wasn’t what you might call the most eligible bachelor. In fact, some people shunned him outright.

Sumunnabi’s brother felt he could drive a hard bargain for her brideprice.29 He would settle for no less than one hundred wool-bearing sheep and ten cattle. The sheep weren’t so much of a problem for Ehli-adu, although he hated to lose such a large portion of his father’s flocks. But the cattle! He simply did not have enough silver to purchase ten cattle. But my uncle was determined that Sumunnabi would be his bride, so he took out a loan from a high court official:

Ehli-adu borrows 50 shekels of silver from Talma-ammu. Interest payable on half at 33 1/3 percent and half at 20 percent. 3 witnesses. Dated in the month pagri.30

Oh, those were stiff terms, and the thing Ehli-adu feared most was defaulting on the loan and having to sign a mazzazānūtu contract to enter into Talma-ammu’s service.31 What kind of a life would that have made for Sumunnabi?

But as it happened, they never had time to find out. All of the wedding festivities took place: Sumunnabi had a garment fringed in gold tassels draped over her shoulders, Ehli-adu lifted the veil from her head, we celebrated for five days and, as her husband, Ehli-adu deflowered her.32 Then, the hand of Nergal struck and, like so many others, they were taken away not in their time.33

Ehli-adu and Sumunnabi needed to be buried quickly, even before the moon rose, because the plague still ravaged the city. I remember my mother, aunts, and cousins rushing to stitch together lengths of rough wool; by the time the burial shrouds were complete, dark bruise-like smears had begun to appear on the bodies, which were losing the heat of life.34 I followed the hastily-organized funeral procession to the edge of the city, where the once-mighty walls of the city had been burned down by the Hittite Great King before I was born. They selected a spot for the grave near where another funeral was already taking place. I couldn’t help but glance into the pit: my breath froze in my throat as I recognized a young boy from the neighborhood,35 not much younger than me. Only last week I had seen him jumping rope and playing dice on the street in front of his house. Now he was so still, curled up on his left side. His parents had given him gifts befitting his status as their eldest son: a metal bracelet encircling his right wrist, a large bottle of wine for the gods of the underworld, and a handful of his favorite dice.36 The hand of Nergal showed no mercy.

I sought out my mother and nuzzled my head into the crook of her arm. We watched my father dig with haste: he did not want to give the illness that plagued his brother’s and sister-in-law’s mortal remains any more opportunity to enter our bodies—but he still had to give them a proper burial in a place of peace so that their spirits would not return in anger to harm us.37 The pit was narrow, but deep. It was my duty to help my father grasp the corners of the shrouds that swathed the stiffening bodies and lower them into the pit, one atop the other, on their backs.38 As my father quickly chanted the prayer invoking Ehli-adu and Sumunnabi as the newest of our deceased ancestors, I cupped the Goddess’s head that I always carried in my pocket [see left], my thumb nervously rubbing its familiar bumps. Goddess Figurine HeadIt occurred to me that my uncle and aunt may need its protection in the Land of the Dead more than I needed it here.39 I tossed it into the pit as the first spray of dirt dappled the burial shrouds. I hoped that it would help them on their journey, so that they could stand together before the judges of the underworld even though their time together in the Land of the Living had been so short.”

(Drawing by Brenda Craddock; Yener, ed. 2010: 244)

 

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

1. Pagri, a month in the Alalakh calendars from Level VII, was a time of ancestor cults and sacrifices to the dead (Haas 1994: 557). Festivals for the netherworld spirits of deceased family members were common throughout the ancient Near East. Pagri probably was analogous to the month of Abu that appeared on Alalakh calendars during Level IV (Cohen 1993: 373).

2. King of Alalakh during Level VB (Stein 1997).

3. Old Adult (50+ years); age estimated via cranial suture closure and degenerative joint disease. Probable male; sex estimated via cranial morphology.

4. July through September was a “relatively quiet” time of year that included an element of foreboding (e.g., grain stores dwindling, threat of drought). The months associated with underworld rites probably fell in these late summer months, or possibly in the winter (i.e., January through March), at the times of greatest insecurity (Fleming 2000: 195).

5. The full moon represented a time when both sun and moon may be visible together at full strength, weakening the powers of the underworld (Fleming 2000: 159).

6. Because moonless nights were opportune times for evildoers to go about their business, this also would have been the time for malevolent spirits, who normally lived in the underworld, to perform evil in the Land of the Living (Cohen 1993: 455). In these last days of the month, the “doors of a gate set at the grave” were barred (either a gate in the city walls that faced the cemetery or a gate in the cemetery wall), establishing a barrier between the city and the domain of the dead at a time of lunar darkness (Fleming 2000: 194). Pitard (1996: 130-137) describes several rituals from Emar that took place on set days during the month of Abu and involved offerings of grain, fruit, beer, vessels, and animal sacrifices. However, it is not certain where they occurred (possibly at the entrance of a royal tomb, the city cemetery, or the city gates).

7. For the terminology associated with death and burial, see Steiner 1982.

8. Certain seasons and times of the months were seen as periods of confluence between the Lands of Living and Dead, affording easier access between them. Festivals occurred at these times, as a means to control and/or regulate this interaction, which was inevitable but frightening to the living (Cohen 1993: 454-455).

9. Distinguishing characteristics of the elderly in Mesopotamia included being gray-haired and bent/stooped (Harris 2000: 51).

10. A Late Assyrian text describes old age thus: “40 Happiness, 50 Short Days, 60 Manliness, 70 Long Days, 80 Grey-hairedness, 90 Ripe Old Age” (Wilcke 1998: 24).

11. Although old age was also marked by a significant decline in economic productivity, there seems to have been some dignity in the advisory role played by elderly in their families (Harris 2000: 28-31). Many euphemisms for death use the verb “to go forth,” e.g., “to go forth into the fate of humanity” (Steiner 1982: 242).

12. In general, this probable male seems to have experienced comparatively good dental health throughout his life. None of his nineteen extant teeth have caries. Considering his apparently advanced age, his lack of caries is remarkable. No linear enamel hypoplasias were observed. Extensive horizontal bone loss is apparent in the mandibular arcade, but this is almost certainly a manifestation of continuing tooth eruption due to heavy attrition and old age. The antemortem loss of one tooth (left M3) probably was caused by a pulpal-alveolar defect from heavy attrition, possibly exacerbated by root exposure due to continuing eruption. His right M1 [see left] has an unusual suite of traits. Maxillary first molarThis tooth is severely worn, with a resultant reduction in crown height. The occlusal surface is worn at a pronounced lingual slope below the cervical margin, with subsequent incorporation of the lingual roots in the occlusal plane (although the original occlusal surface has not been abandoned). The high proportion of ground and prepared foods (e.g., processed cereal grains) in the diets of agriculturalists permits significant tooth-to-tooth contact during mastication, causing oblique wear planes to develop in stages of advanced wear (Smith 1984). Consequently, the lingually sloping wear on his first molars is not unexpected for one of the oldest members of a population who relied on an agricultural subsistence strategy. By contrast, extremely stressful occlusal forces would tend to cause buccal sloping (Comuzzie and Steele 1989).

 

13. The attachments for this individual's muscles of mastication are very strongly marked. His masseter muscles were robust: the gonial angle is markedly rectangular in form and strongly everted, and he has very pronounced masseteric tuberosities, as well as oblique ridges on the ramus raised by masseter attachment [see below left]. His pterygoid muscles were also strong: the pterygoid tuberosities are extremely pronounced—even spiky—and the pterygoid fovea, while only moderately excavated, is distinctly ridged. The coronoid process and anterior border of the mandibular ramus are robust, and his temporal lines are strongly marked, indicating the power of his temporalis muscles. The mylohyoid muscle, also was robust, as illustrated by his very strong mylohyoid lines. There is also evidence for moderate DJD of the TMJ: the left mandibular condyle presents localized areas of erosion and moderate porosity on the lateral articular surface and medial head [see below right].

Left mandible Mandibular DJD

14. Epidemics were referred to as the “hand” or “touch” of Nergal (Stol 1995: 487).

15. The Mari letters describe measures taken to try to stem the spread of contagious diseases (Biggs 1995: 1922).

16. The lack of official archives or a monumental palace in Levels VI and V suggest that Alalakh was not a formal city-state during this time (Gates 1981: 39). Political restructuring in the wake of the power vacuum caused by the Hittites’ departure may be evident in the peaceful transition between Levels VI and V, when the city’s fortifications were re-planned (Gates 1981: 35, after Woolley 1955: 389). In fact, these major building works (e.g., the re-building of the city’s temple on new plans, several episodes of the fortifications’ re-design and strengthening; Woolley 1955: 65-71, 151-155) suggest that some sort of centralized political authority did exist. Any period of hardship following the withdrawal of the Hittites seems to have encompassed, at most, only the first decades of Level VI (ca. mid 16th century).

17. Young Adult (25-35 years); age estimated via cranial suture closure and degenerative joint disease. Male; sex estimated via cranial morphology and post-cranial robusticity.

18. For inheritance practices, see Beckman 1996; van der Toorn 1994.

19. A man’s duty was to “build a house,” i.e., a nuclear family (Stol 1995: 488).

20. Adolescent (15-20 years); age estimated via epiphyseal ossification and fusion. Female; sex estimated via post-cranial robusticity.

21. Based on Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian evidence, women usually were in their mid to late teens and men in their late twenties-early thirties at the time of their first marriage (Roth 1987: 737).

22. This individual's stature was roughly average (154.49 cm, +/- 4.83), based on maximum length of the ulna (23.9 cm). Because her lower body was not excavated, assessments of robusticity are based solely on humeral metrics. Her humeral minimum circumference (5.3 cm) occupies the bottom of the female range, while the maximum articular width (3.8 cm) falls into the lower end of the female range. These metrics suggest that her overall body size was smaller than the average female from Alalakh. However, her biepicondylar width (5.6 cm) falls into the middle of the female range, so she apparently engaged in rigorous upper body activity with some regularity. The deltoid tuberosity of her left humerus is moderately robust, while that on the right side is fairly gracile, suggesting that she may have been left-handed.

23. Marriages were arranged by a girl’s guardian (mother or brother) if her father was no longer alive (Stol 1995: 488).

24. Viniculture on small personal plots may have been a common “side line occupation” at Alalakh (Gaál 1972: 283). See Dietrich and Loretz 1969 for more on vine-growing and the various social groups involved.

25. Two sets of LEH were observed on a mandibular canine (having occurred at 4 and 4.5 years of age; after Goodman and Rose 1991, but see Ritzman et al. 2008). The left orbital plate exhibits a cribra orbitalia lesion oriented medio-laterally and set back at least half a centimeter from the orbital margin [see right]Cribra orbitalia. This lesion is moderate-severe, with thickening in trabecular form visible at its lateral edges (Stage 3-4; after Stuart-Macadam 1985). It has remodeled, but retains trace hypervascularity. S04-15’s skeletal health supports the dental evidence for episodes of poor health, of non-specific etiology, suffered during childhood.

 

26. Looking at S04-15’s burial posture in the field photo, it is obvious that the superior set of thoracic vertebrae is deviated toward the right, constituting the superior half of the classic S-shaped scoliotic curvature. The degree of curvature appears to be ca. 10-15˚, although it is difficult to be certain from the field photo. During osteological analysis, I observed that the spinous processes of three thoracic vertebrae (from T1-9, not adjacent) deflected to the right and left to varying degrees (ranging from minor to quite significant) [see below left]. The spinous process of T12 also is deflected to the left; the left inferior diarthrodial joint extends noticeably further in an inferior direction compared to the right one [see below right]; and the articular facet itself seems unusually long and narrow. This is characteristic of facet tropism, in which different angles of facets occur bilaterally, leading to asymmetric biomechanical loads. (I am grateful to Robert D. Boutin, M.D. for this insight.) This facet tropism suggests that additional abnormal curvature was found lower in the spinal column.  However, no major deflections or morphological changes were observed of the transverse processes of the thoracic vertebrae. There is no osteophyte formation on the vertebral bodies, and no significant changes to the morphology of the vertebral bodies, such as wedging, were noted. All of these features suggest that S04-15 was afflicted with scoliosis, but it was fairly mild in severity and had no kyphotic component, thus probably was not significantly debilitating.

Deflected spinous process Asymmetrical facet joints

 


Changes to rib shape and curvature are usually implicated in scoliosis of the spine. Indeed, almost all of S04-15’s ribs exhibit a moderately-deeply excavated pit in their necks (between the head and tubercle) as well as minor-moderate osteophyte formation on the caudal edges of the ribs (where the intercostal muscles attach) [see below]. Pathological ribExcept for some minor pitting on the caudal edges, the rib bodies are otherwise normal. These areas of the costal neck relate to the attachments of the superior and lateral costotransverse ligaments. Their changes are consistent with the scoliosis observed in the thoracic spine, which clearly has caused the ligaments of the associated ribs to compensate via modified modeling.

Because congenital malformation did not affect any of S04-15’s spinal segments, he apparently suffered from idiopathic scoliosis (i.e., of unknown cause), which most commonly appears after puberty and progresses during adult life (Waldron 2007: 204-205). However, given S04-15’s moderate-severe cribra orbitalia, it is worth considering that his scoliosis had a common etiology, such as infectious damage (Resnick 1989: 1066) or nutritional stress (Ortner 2003: 468) suffered during childhood. See Waldron 2007 for further discussion of the social implications of scoliosis.

27. Whatever ailments S04-15 experienced as a child, they did not stunt his growth: S04-15 had the tallest estimated stature of any skeleton in the Alalakh skeletal series (174.64 cm +/- 4.43, based on maximum length of the humerus). Herein could lie a clue to the origin of his pathology, as idiopathic scoliosis preferentially afflicts “taller and heavier persons” (Resnick 1989: 1068).

28. Overall, S04-15’s dental health was very poor, particularly considering that he was not of advanced age. Compared to the rest of the Alalakh skeletal series, S04-15 has a high caries frequency and a high rate of antemortem tooth loss. Two of twelve extant teeth have caries (occlusal surface caries on the right M2, large caries on the left M3 [see right]). Carious molarAt least three teeth (all mandibular molars) were lost antemortem. Given the extensive, widespread horizontal bone loss in both the maxilla and mandible, S04-15 was one of only two people in the Alalakh skeletal sample afflicted with periodontal disease. The presence of large caries on the left M3 suggests that the antemortem tooth loss may have been due to multiple causes, including pulpal-alveolar defects.

 

29. A system of brideprice is attested at Alalakh and is characteristic of all Syro-Mesopotamian societies. Brideprice represents a transaction between the groom’s family and the bride’s family. It is often paid in installments over a period of time and consists of movable property (Grosz 1981: 178-180).

30. Based on Level VII Alalakh Text 35 (Wiseman 1953: 43).

31. Mazzazānūtu contracts found in Level VII (Eichler 1973) describe how creditors (including the kingdom’s rulers) acquired the service of individuals, families, or villages on the basis of a loan transaction (usually in the form of silver or emmer wheat). The debtors were then attached to the household of the creditor and rendered professional services for him or her. Debtors could even be reduced to slave status (Bunnens 1987).

32. See Collon (1995: 508) for dress in Syria during the Old Babylonian period (MBA); Stol (1995: 489) for wedding ceremonies; and Cooper (2002: 100-102) for the ritual implications of virginity.

33. Early death was “unnatural, a taking away ‘not in his time’” (Stol 1995: 487).

34. Algor mortis (cooling of body temperature) and livor mortis (characterized by blood pooling) are independent, but simultaneous processes. Lividity usually becomes fixed ca. four to six hours after death (Clark et al. 2006: 152).

35. Child (3-6 years); age estimated via epiphyseal ossification and fusion, and dental development. That this child was a male is pure speculation on my part, as juvenile skeletons to do not exhibit enough dimorphism to permit sex estimation.

36. One copper alloy bracelet (A03-R1895), encircled the child's right forearm, leaving a green discoloration on the radius [see below left]. A North Syrian Gray Ware bottle (A03-R1896;[see below right]) had been placed next to the left hip area. Six astragalus gaming pieces (one worked, five unworked) were also placed with the body, although their location was not recorded.

S04-17Radius North Syrian Gray Wear Bottle
Child's radius: note discoloration around the area of postmortem break. Bottle similar to A03-R1896 (Photo by Nita Lee Roberts; Yener, ed. 2010: 46)

 

 

 

           37. For fear of the dead, see Tsukimoto 1985: 234-249; Wexler 1993: 291-303.

           38. Although only one skeleton was described as being in this locus (L. 03-3057), two distinct skeletons were present at the time of analysis, both from the same pail. The male individual is the skeleton visible in the field photo from this locus, but the female’s actual provenience remains a mystery. I have gone through the Top Plans and photos from this square in hopes of finding a skeleton without a description, but to no avail.  Based on the relevant Top Plan, the female’s bones may have been excavated the day after the male’s, when excavators dug quite a bit deeper. The excavators’ failure to recognize S04-16 as a distinct skeleton probably is the result of multiple factors. First, her  skull, usually the first tip-off that a distinct individual has been encountered, was not recovered, likely because it had been subject to taphonomic disturbance and disarticulation. Second and most intriguingly, as with S04-15, only the bones of her upper body were present and/or available to excavators. If indeed she was buried below him, her positioning, deposition, and orientation may have been very similar to his, so that her lower body (like his) also remained within the baulk. If this is the case, and her bones were only partially articulated, it would have been difficult for excavators who were unfamiliar with human skeletal anatomy to recognize her as a distinct individual. The potential similarity between S04-15 and S04-16’s burial locations and postures may indicate that they were buried together intentionally.

39. The female head from a handmade terracotta figurine (A03-R1948) was found with this burial, but its exact provenience was not recorded. Pruss and Novák (2000: 187) hypothesize that figurines in burials were not immediate personal objects, but offerings that the dead person could use in the next world or on their way there. They explain figurines as representations of demons, genies, or other supernatural beings that helped bring the deceased person in line with the world of the dead.

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© Alexis T. Boutin

Last updated June 22, 2011