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20 December 2008
Ancient Syrian necropolis unearthed

An Italian-led team of experts has uncovered a vast, ancient necropolis near the Syrian oasis of Palmyra. The team, headed by Daniele Morandi Bonacossi of Udine University, believes the burial site dates from the second half of the third millennium BCE. The necropolis comprises around least 30 large burial mounds. "This is the first evidence that an area of semi-desert outside the oasis was occupied during the early Bronze Age," said Morandi Bonacossi.
     The necropolis is the latest in a string of dazzling finds by the team. Efforts have chiefly focused on the ancient Syrian capital of Qatna, northeast of modern-day Homs. Since starting work there in 1999, the team has uncovered more than 1,500 square metres of the town's acropolis dating back to the Middle and Late Bronze Age. Among the highlights of the investigation was the discovery of a sprawling complex, since named the Royal Palace.
     Extending the focus east of the royal palace this year, archaeologists uncovered an even larger building. The building, nicknamed the Eastern Palace, was constructed in around the 19th century BCE. "Until now, there had been no indications that buildings of that size existed in Qatna yet this one appears to have been in use for around 500 years," Morandi Bonacossi said.
     Qatna, a once powerful trading city, vied with the centres of Aleppo and Mari for geopolitical supremacy over the entire region in the first half of the second millennium BCE.

Source: ANSA (17 December 2008)

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