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“Their corpses will reach the base of heaven”: a third-millennium BC war memorial in northern Mesopotamia?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2021

Anne Porter*
Affiliation:
Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, Canada
Thomas McClellan
Affiliation:
Euphrates Salvage Project, Bucksport, USA
Susanne Wilhelm
Affiliation:
Independent Researcher
Jill Weber
Affiliation:
The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, USA
Alexandra Baldwin
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Jean Colley
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Brittany Enriquez
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Meagan Jahrles
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Bridget Lanois
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Vladislav Malinov
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Sumedh Ragavan
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Alexandra Robins
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
Zarhuna Safi
Affiliation:
University of Toronto undergraduate seminar NMC471 ‘Death on the Euphrates’
*
*Author for correspondence: ✉ anne.porter@utoronto.ca

Abstract

Burial mounds piled high with enemy corpses are well known in Mesopotamian inscriptions as symbols of victory, but no archaeological examples have so far been recovered. Archaeological investigations of a tall mound adjacent to the site of Tell Banat in Syria have revealed an unusual, late third-millennium BC mortuary population, dominated by adult and sub-adult males. The systematic placement of these human remains and associated assemblages suggests that, rather than containing enemy combatants, this was a memorial to a community's battle dead. The authors propose that the deceased belonged to an organised army, with broader implications for state administration and the adherence or resistance to a new regime fostered by such monumentalisation.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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