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5 August 2011
Chambered tomb unearthed in Terqa, Syria

Team leader Jacek Tomczyk of Poland's Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University reports on two Bronze Age burials in a tomb from the ancient trade town of Terqa, a Mesopotamian archeological site in modern-day Syria.
     "The middle Euphrates valley was inhabited by the 'dimorphic society' of the nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists, who lived in the steppe, and by the agriculturalists who inhabited the river valley," Tomcyzk writes. "The nomads were identified (as) 'the wild and uncivilised peoples' - they came from the desert."
     "The tomb from Terqa consisted of two chambers with stone domes. The smaller chamber contained many luxury grave goods, including jars, plates and pieces of ancient jewellery. The artefacts were placed in an orderly manner, one upon another. Small animal bones and crushed ostrich eggshells indicate that this part was visited by people who left there some offerings. The other chamber was bigger and contained human skeletons," says the study.
     The twin-domed tomb is about 5 metres long, 3.5m wide and 1.8m high, and contained two skeletons - one of a woman and one of a man.
     "The man's skeleton is extremely heavy and large," says the study, which estimates the man died around the age of 45. Shoulder, back and upper arm bones look unusually thick, while his forearms and leg bones were "massive," says the study, all signs of a thickly-muscled fellow. He stood about 1.8m - quite tall for the Bronze Age. "Bronze parts of a coat and belt together with bronze weapon-blades were found on the right side of the hip." The dead man bore two healed cuts on his right upper arm. "The wounds are deep and long," says the study. "... the blow[s] must have been strong."
     The woman, who lived to at least 40, "was neither slim nor lightly built," says the study, showing signs of leg bone wear caused by long periods of squatting. She was about 1.6m - more typical for the time.
     The researchers succeeded in studying the maternal DNA of the man, finding he belonged to the "K" grouping, a family traced to the Near East from about 14,000 years ago, and South Asia even further back, about 53,000 years ago.

Edited from USA Today (29 July 2011)

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