Bones in homes: Grim discovery reveals ancient locals were buried in their own houses
A Szczecin archaeologist has made a chilling discovery in Turkey: some of the residents of the ancient town she is studying may have been buried in their own homes.
Bodies were placed in shallow graves that were plastered over and sometimes reopened so that certain body parts could be removed, or so that earlier remains could be moved to make room for new corpses.
Located in southern Anatolia, in Turkey, Çatalhöyük was a proto-city settlement that existed from roughly 7500 BC to 5700 BC.
The site provides archaeologists with insights into how human life moved from villages to towns thousands of years ago. The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.
Archaeologists from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, have been studying the ancient city since 2001.
Through successive excavations of the city, they have been trying to understand how the city functioned, from its architecture to how its residents were buried.
Researchers were aware that, in the past, people were buried in many houses in the city. What they did not know is whether residents were buried in their own homes or in certain houses where a larger number of people were buried.
New findings by archaeologist Katarzyna Harabasz, who was previously based at Adam Mickiewicz University and is now an assistant professor at the University of Szczecin, provide an insight into this mystery.
In one of the houses, which had been used around 6700-6500 BC, researchers found the remains of a woman. It is unclear exactly how old she was when she died, but she appears to have been between 35 and 50 years old. Traces of organic soot were found on the remains.
"This suggests that, during her lifetime, the woman inhaled the fumes rising from the hearth, which caused carbonosis. Prolonged exposure of the body may have led to a change in the lung tissue, which results in respiratory failure,” said Harabasz.
Harabasz linked this finding to the wider context in which the remains were discovered. In the house where the body had been buried, the hearth was located in a place without good ventilation, she notes. This meant that the fumes were unable to escape, affecting the air that the house’s inhabitants breathed in.
“This may therefore indicate that she was buried in her own home,” she concluded, referring to the woman whose remains were discovered.