A site believed to be the oldest war memorial in the world has been identified in Syria.
Archaeologists have stated that a monument at the Banat-Bazi complex is over 4,000 years old, according to recent analysis.
Banat-Bazi is a settlement built by Mesopotamians and occupied between 2700 and 2300 BC.
Outside the settlement is a large artificial mound known as the White Monument, after the white sheen given by the materials used in its construction.
Also referred to as Tell Banat North, the mound was first excavated in the 1980s, but the area was submerged in 1999 by the construction of the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River. It has not been investigated since.
However, new analysis of the mound, the work both of some of the original excavators and of a new generation of archaeologists, has been published in the journey Antiquity. It has revealed that the monument was modified around 2400 BC, making it the oldest in the world.
The modification involved the construction of steps over the original mound. At least 30 people were buried within these steps, along with military gear such as slingers’ pellets, and the skins of kunga, a donkey-like animal seen pulling vehicles in ancient art.
Other sources from the era refer to burial mounds for dead enemies, but the research suggests that those interred in the White Monument were not an enemy of those who buried them.
Researchers found that the individuals were carefully deposited, with a level organisation that suggests it was the work of allies, or even relatives.
‘Ancient people honoured those killed in battle, just as we do,’ said Professor Anne Porter, a Professor at the University of Toronto and one of the leaders of the excavations.
‘We do not know whether they were the victors or the losers of that battle. We do know that they took the bodies of the dead from some other place, perhaps long after the event, and interred them in a huge mound that was visible for miles around.’
Porter added that the monument reflects ‘an internal conflict rather than an invasion’. Hierarchical societies emerging at the time created ‘a tension between a community-based kinship society and then these narrowing elites who are in control,’ she said.