Pathologies by the Bone: Making Meaning from Commingled Remains

Posted in: Annual Meeting, ASOR, ASORTV
Tags: academic paper, annual meeting, ASOR, ASORTV, Bone, Debra Martin, Isotopic, Levant, mortuary, Tell Abraq, University of Las Vegas
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At the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting, Debra Martin presented the paper, “Pathologies by the Bone: Making Meaning from Commingled Remains at Tell Abraq, UAE (2200–2000 BCE),” during the session on mortuary perspectives from outside the Levant. While at a conference filled with interesting academic papers, exhibitors, and colleagues, she took the time to meet with us to present her paper for ASORtv. Below is his presentation, and the abstract from the paper.
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Abstract from the 2014 Annual Meeting Program book.

Anna Osterholtz (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) and Debra L. Martin (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), “Pathologies by the Bone: Making Meaning from Commingled Remains at Tell Abraq, UAE (2200–2000 BCE)”

The site of Tell Abraq is located in the northern UAE and covers approximately 4 ha radiating from a small mound approximately 10 m above the surrounding plain. The site stood on the edge of a lagoon, which would have been connected to open water, and should therefore be considered a coastal site. Occupation at Tell Abraq began ca. 2200– 2100 BCE and lasted until ca. 400–300 BCE. The tomb (discovered in 1989 and excavated in 1993) dates to ca. 2200–2000 BCE and is a typical Umm an-Nar tomb associated with a large mud-brick fortress. The tomb likely represents a community cemetery where collective and possibly secondary burial was practiced. The skeletal assemblage is large (over four hundred individuals) and many studies have been done utilizing different bone elements. Questions about residential mobility, mortality patterns, marriage and social relationships, and trauma and pathology have all been addressed using different bone elements and different methodologies. This paper attempts to bring together these diverse data sets and interpretations into a single cohesive examination of the inhabitants of Tell Abraq interred in the tomb. For commingled remains, careful synthesis and cross-analysis of bones is possible but presents unique challenges. Integrating well- established paleopathology studies with newer isotopic and histological techniques can provide a way to move from isolated bone elements, to individuals, and finally, to population-level analyses.

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