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21 August 2012
Mysteries of a Neolithic 'Death Pit' revealed

A new book has been published entitled 'Death and Dying in Neolithic Near East'. In it the author, Dr Karina Croucher, concludes that Neolithic man was not the female bashing dominant hunter gatherer that popular belief would lead us to imagine.
     Her book centres around the discovery of a 'Death Pit' at a site known as Domuztepe in the south-eastern corner of Turkey, near the borders with Iran and Iraq. The 'Death Pit' was excavated over a period of 6 years in the late 1990s and included signs of feasting (animal bones) covered by the remains of up to 40 people, both male and female, in roughly equal numbers, which may have been cannibalised. In addition, the skull of a teenage girl was found (nicknamed as 'Kim' by the excavation team), near the edge of the Pit, and which appeared to have been cared for by the same people who looked after the Pit, preventing scavenging animals from picking over the bones.
     From this, and other evidence, Dr Croucher concluded that  a cross gender compassion had been demonstrated. She is quoted as saying "In the Death Pit a specific choice was made to inter these human remains - including 'Kim' - within its context, and that undoubtedly required care and effort, not only in its construction, but additionally in keeping the area protected and clear of scavengers. Even the cannibalism was probably seen by these people as a compassionate act". She goes on to say "The stereotypical and inaccurate view of male hunters dominating their more submissive female counterparts is an articulation of male bias in archaeology". The book is currently published in hardback by Oxford University Press.

Edited from Past Horizons (August 2012)

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