Saturday, October 18, 2008

World's Oldest Cremation Site

Following is an excerpt from a Mainichi Daily News article about the discovery of an ancient cremation site in Syria. What I find most interesting is that the amount of wood required to accomplish the cremation, and the fact that non-cremated bodies were also found, indicate that cremation was a very expensive and thus high status method of disposition in the Neolithic age. Of course, today, many people choose cremation because it is seen as inexpensive and simple.
from the article-Human bones in the pit that was used for cremations at the Tell el-Kerkh complex in Syria, in this photograph provided courtesy of professor Akira Tsuneki. The characters at the top of the photograph read "other bones" and those at the bottom read "skull bones."
The Tell el-Kerkh find is believed to be the world's oldest cremation site with both cremated bones and the pits used for cremation.
Four pits measuring about 1 meter in diameter and 50 to 80 centimeters in depth were found, together with the remains of 47 people. Of those, about 20 had been cremated. In two locations that were investigated, the cremated remains of about five people had been buried. There were no remains in a third area that was investigated, but the earthen walls were burned and hardened, and there were cremated remains nearby.
"About a ton of wood was needed for cremation, and the fact that some people were cremated and others weren't suggested that it was people with a certain status who were cremated," Tsuneki said.
"The Neolithic age was a time when hierarchies started to appear and the elite emerged," Sato said. "These are extremely important archaeological sites."

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