An Exploration of Infant Burial Practices at the Site of Kish, Iraq

Christina Torres-Rouff and William J. Pestle

in Bioarchaeology and Behavior

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780813042299
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043449 | DOI:
An Exploration of Infant Burial Practices at the Site of Kish, Iraq

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In the 3rd millennium BC, the city of Kish was the dominant regional polity in central Iraq. From 1923–1933 the Joint Oxford-Field Museum Expedition to Kish excavated skeletal remains from over 750 individuals, representing nearly every era of the site's occupation. Recently, these remains, along with the material culture from Kish, have been systematically re-analyzed. Osteological analysis of this collection revealed the unexpected presence of 22 well-preserved neonate skeletons. It is notable that all are from the Ingharra mound complex and that a large number of these (n=16) were between 36 and 44 weeks post-conception, suggesting a distinct class of funerary treatment for near full-term infants. Integration of the osteological data with long-separated burial records and fieldnotes revealed further aspects of the mortuary ritual afforded perinatal infants at Kish. Specialized infant burial practices and precincts are not unique to Kish, having been documented at other Near Eastern sites. In the case of Kish, we explore the social significance of perinatal death for early Mesopotamian civilizations.

Keywords: Kish; infant burial; jar burial; Neo-Babylonian; Mesopotamia

Chapter.  8355 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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