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Excavations at Başur Höyük uncover new evidence of ancient child sacrifice

Excavations at Başur Höyük uncover new evidence of ancient child sacrifice

Excavations led by Dr. Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University at the site of Başur Höyük have begun to reveal complex burial practices in the Upper Tigris region during the transition to the third millennium BC.

Recent bioarchaeological analysis – part-funded by the BIAA – has uncovered evidence of elaborate retainer burial, as well as a separate mass death pit.  Osteological analysis and study of the grave goods has identified some of the dead as human sacrifices. 

Human sacrifice is thought to be one of the ways that complex civilizations consolidated their power, and the practice is well-attested at the famous Royal Cemetery of Ur.  The discoveries at Başur Höyük, which are 500 years older and 500 miles further north, represent an exciting opportunity for researchers to further understand the rise of hierarchical centralised societies, and the role of retainer burials in these processes.

A new Arts and Humanities Research Council UK funded project, led by Prof. David Wengrow and Dr. Brenna Hassett of University College London, will continue to investigate both the bioarchaeology of these new discoveries and the role such practices play in the formation of early states.

Photos courtesy of the Başur Höyük Research Project.

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