Researchers Study Mysterious Deaths in Mass Grave at Ancient Haft Tappeh
A mass grave containing the remains of more than 250 people was discovered by archaeologists at the ancient city of Haft Tappeh, Iran. Scientist are now working to determine how these people perished, and why they were piled haphazardly behind a wall. Were these victims of a deadly epidemic, or a vicious massacre?
According to reports from lead excavator Behzad Mofidi-Nasrabadi, archaeologist from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, the 3,400-year-old remains of several hundred victims were found haphazardly thrown over one another and buried behind one of the ancient outer walls.
Piled Bodies of Men, Women and Children
Mofidi-Nasrabadi says at least 149 individuals have been excavated so far based on the number of skulls. An additional 100 to 150 skeletons are thought to be buried in an unexcavated section of the trench. Some of the remains belong to children.
“The large number of deceased led to the assumption that there took place either a massacre or an epidemic,” notes Mofidi-Nasrabadi. There was no indication of an ordinary burial, and the bodies had simply been amassed at the site, however pottery vessels and date palm kernels found between some of the skeletons, perhaps served as simple grave goods or sustenance for the afterlife.
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The Bronze Age city of Haft Tappeh, now an archaeological excavation site, is located 15 kilometers (nine miles) south of Susa in the province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran. It was built upon earthen hills, and named “the Seven Mounds” in Persian. The 4,000-year-old city was once a flourishing craft, trade and political center of the Elamite Empire, but it fell into ruin and disappeared 539 BC—and nobody knows why.
Cuneiform tablet found at the ziggurat Chogha Zanbil, an Elamite complex in the Khuzestan province of Iran near Haft Tappeh. Representational image. (Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)
Researchers believe the mass deaths may coincide with the decline of the city, and following the death of a king, reports MailOnline.
“The Kidinuid dynasty were the fourth family of kings thought to have ruled over the empire and rose to power in the 15th Century. The capital of the empire was the city of Susa, but under the rule of Temti-Ahar it appeared to move to the city of Haft Tappeh.”
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Ashurbanipal's campaign against nearby Susa is triumphantly recorded in this relief showing the sack of Susa in 647 BC. Here, flames rise from the city as Assyrian soldiers topple it with pickaxes and crowbars and carry off the spoils. Representational image.(CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Sad Fate of Haft Tappeh
Between 1400 and 1500 BC the ancient city was deserted for reasons unknown. Monumental structures were abandoned, and other ruins were plundered for their materials to build simple homes in the area.
Excavations have revealed tombs, workshops and temples filled with myriad artifacts.
“The plain and patterned jars, cups and bowls found at the site are mostly buff-colored with patterned ones bearing geometrical designs.
Animal and human figurines as well as bronze objects such as daggers, arrowheads, axes, needles, buttons, nails, hooks, chisels, awls and routers have also been found at the site.
The wall paintings found at Haft Tappeh are in the form of blue, red, orange, yellow, gray, white and black geometrical shapes.
Archeologists have also found numerous stone objects including tools, measuring stones, dishes and blades.
The jewelry discovered at the site includes necklaces and pendants along with circular and quadrangular buttons made of bones and faience. Mosaics made of bone, bronze and lazulite have also been found, which bear geometrical patterns.”
Inscribed tablets found at Haft Tepe. Credit: Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Perhaps through research the dark circumstances faced by the hundreds of victims at Haft Tappeh can be explained, potentially resolving the mystery of the fall of the once-thriving Elamite center.
Featured Image: Vaulted royal tomb of Haft Teppah (Haft Tepe), the Bronze Age Elamite city where archaeologist have uncovered a mass grave filled with unfortunate victims. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
By: Liz Leafloor