Thursday, September 14, 2023

Death at the Dunnu: Investigating Funerary Variety at Middle Assyrian Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria

Keshia A.N. Akkermans

During the roughly hundred years (ca. 1225 – 1125 BCE) that the Middle Assyrian dunnu at Tell Sabi Abyad was in operation, some forty-nine individuals were interred in graves of a striking diversity. In this book their burial type, location, orientation, position, grave goods and osteological data are analysed in order to generate new insights on Middle Assyrian society. Most graves appear to have been inhumation graves dug into abandoned spaces in and around the settlement. Men, women, and children were placed in mudbrick-lined cists, unlined pits, pre-existing architecture, and jars. Burial practices similar to those at Tell Sabi Abyad are found at many other Middle Assyrian sites, and suggest they were part of an overarching Middle Assyrian funerary repertoire.

At the same time, Tell Sabi Abyad also contained cremation graves – a burial practice that is at odds with Mesopotamian views of the afterlife. These may belong to (Hurrian) deportees that chose to adhere to the funerary traditions of their homelands. The cremated remains were deposited in jars that were subsequently buried in the ground or buried at the place of the funeral pyre. While almost all graves contained some form of grave goods – usually consisting of items of bodily adornment and ceramic bowls placed close to the head and hands – the two graves with the most grave goods were both cremation graves. Their inventories contained sumptuous items of Middle Assyrian style and iconography, suggesting people of non-Assyrian backgrounds were just as capable of socio-economic success in Assyrian society.

Paperback ISBN: 9789464261820 | Hardback ISBN: 9789464261837 | Imprint: Sidestone Press | Format: 182x257mm | 206 pp. | Language: English | 57 illus. (bw) | 97 illus. (fc) | Keywords: Near-Eastern archaeology; funerary archaeology; burial practices; Middle Assyrian period; Tell Sabi Abyad; dunnu; Late Bronze Age; Syria | download cover | DOI: 10.59641/j9e42cc9

1. Introduction
2. Data and Methodology
3. Theorizing Death
4. The Middle Assyrian State: Culture-Historic Frameworks
5. Introducing Tell Sabi Abyad
6. The Graves of Sabi Abyad
7. Burial in the Middle Assyrian Empire
8. Concluding Death at the Dunnu
Figures, Tables, and Appendices
Burial Catalogue




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