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Freie Universität Berlin (2007)

Leben und Sterben im nordmesopotamischen Magdala (Syrien)

Hornig, Heide

Titre : Leben und Sterben im nordmesopotamischen Magdala (Syrien)

Life and death in North Mesopotamian Magdala (Syria)

Auteur : Hornig, Heide

Université de soutenance : Freie Universität Berlin

Grade : Doktors der Naturwissenschaften (Dr. rer. nat.) 2007

As there are few written documents existing about the Parthian and Roman time in the north of Mesopotamia, the anthropological and chemical analyses of 691 skeletons found in a Parthian-Roman cemetery (ca. 200 BC until 250 AD) in Magdala (North-Eastern Syria) contribute to our knowledge about the biological, social and economic constellation of a population. They also improve our knowledge about the burial customs and the living conditions in the historical north of Mesopotamia. The anthropological study of the skeletons was used to characterize the demographical structures of the population. The highest mortality was found in the mature age class (29.0 %) followed by the adult class (22.7 %). The relatively low mortality of children (25.8%) can be ascribed to infectious diseases such as malaria and illnesses due to parasites. Isotopes analyses show that breast milk was the main nutritional source for children up to an age of three years. As a result, diseases due to a lack of proteins can be excluded for this group. Adult female mortality is high and could be based on pregnancy and childbirth stress. Males demonstrate a higher mortality rate at mature age. The members of the Parthian-Roman community are predominantly buried in brick graves (53.4 %), followed by earth graves (31.8 %), pot graves (9.1 %) and then sarcophagi (4.9 %). The supine position (52.5 %) prevailed over the crouched position (25.3 %). Small children were more likely to be buried in a crouched position than juveniles and adults. Collagen could only be isolated from 12 % of the bone samples. A reconstruction of the dietary behaviour based on the d13C- and d15N-values of the collagen was, as a result, only possible in a very reduced manor. Ultimately, the d13C- and the d18O-values of the isolated bone carbonate were used to reconstruct the dietary resources, the nutritional situation of small children, the migrational behaviour and the human- environment relationship. Using these isotope analyses, the existence of an artificial irrigation system could be affirmed for this region. In addition, the abandonment of the settlement as a direct result of the changed environment conditions - for example through overgrazing of the vegetation - could be substantiated. The chemical analyses revealed an omnivorous nutrition for the Parthian-Roman population of Magdala which included a high amount of animal proteins. This nutrition does not suggest a livelihood based primarily on an agricultural economy but on an economy based largely on stock-breeding and trade. The d18O-values of the human samples indicate a predominatly homogenous population in the Parthian-Roman epoch of Magdala. The ascertained results reflect a predominantly stable and homogenous community with good living conditions for children and elderly people as well as a good dietary situation with an adequate proportion of animal proteins and an immune system that was well adapted to the environment.

Mots Clés : Mesopotamia, parthian/roman, nutrition, stable isotopes, demographic structure, living conditions

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Page publiée le 2 novembre 2012, mise à jour le 2 novembre 2018