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Mobility and connection among the Early Bronze Age Syrian elite

Stantis, Chris; Compton, Georgina S.; Kharobi, Arwa; Maaranen, Nina; Nowell, Geoff M.; Macpherson, Colin; Batey, Ernest K.; Schwartz, Glenn M.

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Chris Stantis

Georgina S. Compton

Arwa Kharobi

Nina Maaranen

Ernest K. Batey

Glenn M. Schwartz


The archaeological site of Umm el-Marra (in the Jabbul plain, western Syria), is a large, fortified urban center. Excavations have uncovered ten tomb structures built during the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2600–2150 BCE) that possibly contain royalty as evidenced by lavish grave goods and paleopathological evidence suggesting sociocultural buffering from the harsh social and physical environments of agricultural urban centers in the Bronze Age Near East. Inside adjacent brick installations are animal (primarily equid) skeletons interpreted as interments, possibly sacrifices in some instances, as part of ceremonies honoring the entombed. The burial site was eventually re-used as evidenced by a monumental platform above the tombs, interpreted as use for ritual activities of ancestor veneration. This study analyzed 87Sr/86Sr and δ18O values from enamel of 13 individuals interred in these tombs, along with enamel and bone samples from animals found in and around the tomb structures. Six of 13 (43 %) individuals analyzed in these tombs are identified as non-locals. Although contemporaneous data in the northern Levant is scarce, we see much higher evidence of human movement at Umm el-Marra compared to others. Only elites are included in this study, but their relative mobility might imply that the ancient city established its position as a secondary center along major trade routes through intermarriage and connectivity. The concept of ‘social memory’ is evident, as the lives and deaths of these elites are integrated into this site where ancestor veneration is evidenced in centuries following interment.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 23, 2023
Online Publication Date Aug 7, 2023
Publication Date 2023-10
Deposit Date Nov 1, 2023
Publicly Available Date Nov 1, 2023
Journal Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Print ISSN 2352-409X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 51
Article Number 104142
Keywords Archeology; Archeology
Public URL


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