The People Left Behind: Four Victims of the Destruction of the Late Bronze Age City of Azekah

  • Author / Creator
    Berendt, Karl R.
  • In the Late Bronze Age, the city of Azekah was a regional centre that probably prospered under the sponsorship of Egyptian rulers. However, the city was destroyed in the late 12th Century BCE by an unknown cause and abandoned thereafter. Building T2/627 was destroyed in this event: the building burned and collapsed, trapping four of Azekah’s inhabitants inside. The arrangement of artefacts shows that this was a sudden disaster, leaving little time to prepare to evacuate. Between 2012 and 2014, the remains of these four individuals were excavated by the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition. The lives and deaths of these individuals were reconstructed using the approach of osteobiography. Age at death and sex estimations were integrated with discussions of pathology, trauma, and musculoskeletal stress, to propose reconstructions of habitual activity and aspects of health and diet. Bone fractures and colour changes were classified and staged to give an estimate of fire conditions from the time of death, and postmortem scavenging patterns were discussed to attempt to explain the missing limbs and characterise the site after the destruction. The information from these analyses was taken into context with what is currently known about the history and archaeology of this region, to produce four portraits of life at ancient Azekah.It was found that these individuals suffered from anaemia and other systemic illness during their lives. Patterns of musculoskeletal stress markers showed that they were likely highly active. In the context of artifacts recovered from the building, the markers suggest that specific activities included grinding grain and carrying heavy objects. After the destruction, it seems that the bodies burned quite extensively. The overall impression of high-temperature fire conditions drawn from bone colour changes contrasted with the relative lack of heat-induced fracturing of the remains and the absence of clear pugilistic posture. Possibly, a very hot fire aided by flammable goods stored in the building caused the building to collapse on top of these individuals and protect their bodies from some of the effects of heat alteration. Together, these lines of evidence enhanced our understanding of these individuals’ ways of life and manners of death against the backdrop of Azekah’s destruction.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
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