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Archaeo News 

30 November 2016
Violent deaths led to disrespectful burials

A team from the University of Arizona (USA) has been conducting a study of ancient burial sites in the Sonoran Desert, on the border between the USA and Mexico. The subject of their study was the way in which people had been buried, in the period from 2100 BCE to 50 CE.
     What became apparent was that people who had appeared to die a natural death, either through old age or disease, had been buried with dignity and respect, carefully placed in the grave, with respectful poses, usually curled up and on their side. Others, however, had obviously suffered a violent death, as evidenced by bone fractures and chipped bones (evidence of projectile penetrations). These bodies had been thrown into their graves in haphazard and awkward ways, as if they had been violently thrown in.
     So what is the explanation for these disrespectful burials? One theory put forward by University of Arizona bio archaeologist, James Watson, is that "We're arguing that the way they were tossed into these pits is a form of continued desecration of the body. It's moving from violence on the living individual, through to the process of death, to violence on the corpse".
     Family feuds could be another reason. The time zone studied tallies with an explosion in the local population, with pressure being put on the areas each family occupied and these may have been the result of localised border disputes or simply the removal of the head of a neighbouring family, simply to gain control of their wives and land and increase their own prestige and social standing. The analysis continues.

Edited from EurekAlert! (24 October 2016)

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