Antemortem health indicators and burial status: a study of the Tepe Hasanlu Bronze- Seleuco-Parthian period burials, Iran
Soltani, Sara Khalifeh
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From the years of 1956 through 1977, Archaeologist Robert H. Dyson, Jr., directed the excavations of the archaeological site of Tepe Hasanlu, located in the West Azerbaijan region of Iran. Several archaeological reports of the finds include the overview of over 400 skeletons discovered in Hasanlu’s Lower Mound cemetery, though only 97 were ever retained for osteological analysis. Totaling 113 burials examined, 88-individuals were derived from the Low Mound and 25 individuals were from the High Mound. The excavated artifacts and skeletons are now split between The Pennsylvania Museum and The National Museum of Iran in Tehran. The Upper and Lower Mound burials of Tepe Hasanlu were examined through bioarchaeological, osteological, and archaeological (burial connotations) methodologies in an attempt to reveal the lifestyle, burial practices, and economy of the famous ancient city. It was hypothesized that there is a correlation between pathological conditions, sex, and the perceived economic/social status of the Bronze through Seluco-Parthian burials based on the associated grave goods and sociocultural characteristics viewed and examined within the burial space. This hypothesis was tested through skeletal and archaeological analysis, and it was found that individual pathological conditions correlate with the burial goods classified in Levels 1 and 2, however, Level 0 is more variable. The variations found among the level classifications and the frequencies of their individual pathological conditions reveal a high rate among Level 1 and a low rate among Level 2 burials. Additionally, it is possible that the different associated economic classes at Hasanlu exhibited dissimilar biological susceptibilities, nutrition, health, and lifestyles relating to their pathological conditions. However, this could also be a result of differential sampling, or the burials were excavated from a class-based cemetery. Age was found to be a major factor in the presentation of age-related degenerative pathological conditions, which was especially evident in the dentition of the sampled Hasanlu population. Furthermore, the High and Low Mounds appear to be drastically different in the associated economic class of their burials, as the LM appeared to contain individuals of higher classes (Level 2), and the HM exhibited a preference for burials with little (Level 1) to no grave goods (Level 0). As a result of such, it is theorized that the LM and HM were exhibiting different social structures and values, possibly representing separate societal class structures (egalitarian/non-egalitarian) influenced by economic opportunities or Hasanlu’s influence on the region. From the data examined, it appears that the social preferences exhibited by the Hasanlu peoples was evident in nearly every aspect of the burial space dictated by age, sex, and perceived economic class (Levels 0-2) through the burial characteristics of side, position, goods location, grave construction, interments, and possibly orientation. It is with this data that there are proven differences in the various subjects of archaeology and osteological features within the sampled burial population likely influenced by wealth, lifestyles, and/or various burial preferences.
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