them to 6474–6266 and 6415–6252 calBC (1
) res-pectively. The cemetery seems to have been used forseveral centuries.In the previous Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) periods,the dead were commonly buried within of livingspaces, such as under the floor, in a courtyard, ornear a wall foundation. Clusters of human bones were sometimes discovered in special houses, calledskull buildings (
), charnel houses (
), maison des morts (
), and tower burials (
). The longand complicated funeral practices, including skulldecapitation and skull caches, were repeatedly un-dertaken in PPN societies (
e.g. Kenyon 1981; Bar- Yosef
1991; Kuijit 1996; 2000; 2008; Goring- Morris and Horwitz 2007; Bienert 1995
). The cha-racteristics of graves at Kerkh Pottery Neolithic ce-metery were quite different from PPN graves, andthe funeral practices executed there must also havebeen quite different. The Kerkh Pottery Neolithic ce-metery shows drastic changes in funeral practicesand views of the next world. It is one of the earliestoutdoor communal cemeteries in West Asia. Consi-dering the information that the excavation of thiscemetery has revealed, I would like to provide a glimpse of the life of Pottery Neolithic people.
General information about the Neolithic ceme-tery
Burials in the cemetery can be divided into threemain types: primary inhumation, secondary burial,and cremation burial. Structured burials and urn bu-rials were also identified within the cemetery, buttheir number was quite limited.Primary inhumation was the main burial type. With-out exception, all the burials were in a flexed posi-tion (Fig. 4). They were usually buried on their side,although some people were buried in a supine orprone position. Adult males and females, in additionto children, were buried in any position, and no re-markable differences were observed between ageand sex. There were various burial orientations; how-ever, we cannot point to any strict rules for burialorientation in this Neolithic cemetery.Human skeletons, especially skulls and long bones, were sometimes removed from the primary burialcontext and reburied in a shallow pit. There are twosub-types of such secondary burials: single and colle-ctive. However, the majority of secondarily depositedskeletons were buried in a collective burial ground(Fig. 5). Most of these individuals were adults; how-ever, sub-adults, juveniles, and infants were also in-cluded in the secondary pits. Both sexeswere identi-fied from the adult bones.The third burial type is cremation. Thus far, at least37 cremated individuals have been discovered,mainly in four cremation pits (crematoriums) (Fig.6). Over half of the cremated individuals were adultsof both sexes; however, sub-adults, juveniles, and in-fants were also cremated. The age and sex distribu-tions of those cremated were similar to those of thesecondarily deposited individuals. Considering thesize of the pits, the number of individuals, and theirdisarticulation, it seems that the Kerkh people didnot cremate dead bodies, but rather, skeletons thathad been disinterred from primary burials.In the earlier stages of the Kerkh Pottery Neolithiccemetery, cremation practices, including the use of crematoriums, were common in association with pri-mary and secondary pit burials. In the later stages,however, cremation declined. Primary inhumationgradually became the most popular burial type. Else- where, I have discussed the transition of these fune-ral practices and placed them within a long traditionof funerals from the PPNB period. I concluded thatthe term and complexity of the funeral process les-sened with the passage of time, and this funeral tran-sition must have reflected a social transition fromthe PPNB to the PN society (
Causes of death
As I have already mentioned, over 240 human ske-letons have been discovered in the cemetery. As of now, approximately 200 individuals have been stu-
Fig. 1. Location of Tell el-Kerkh.