A large mound in Syria might be the world’s oldest war memorial as it was built prior to the year 2300 BC. The mound, which was constructed with soil that was piled up, contains human remains who may have been foot soldiers or charioteers – it’s unclear whether these remains were from the winners or losers of the battle.
Named Tell Banat North (or the White Monument because of the chalky white color that the mineral gypsum gives off), it was discovered back in the 1980s and 90s, but when the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River was built in 1999, the mound was submerged in water. It has only been re-examined recently.
This incredible mound was constructed in three stages – the first stage was a smooth mound; followed by several smaller mounds on top of it where human skeletons were placed; then the third stage contained stepped platforms around the outside of the mound. Additionally, numerous bones – some human and others belonging to animals (similar to donkeys) – were unearthed in the soil.
Anne Porter from the University of Toronto in Canada and who was one of the leaders of the excavations described the mound, “Imagine upside-down ice cream cones on the outside of a pudding.” “That’s what it must have looked like.”
As for who built this large mound, experts have stated that it was the Mesopotamian people who lived in the area between 2700 BC and 2300 BC. They constructed a settlement near a small mountain named Jebel Bazi where experts found several mounds including the Tell Banat North.
The team of researchers noticed that there was a type of “pattern” in how the human remains were put in the mound. Some of the skeletons had hard pellets buried along with them which could have been projectile weapons and led the researchers to suggest that these humans were once foot soldiers.
Other skeletons were found with animal bones similar to donkeys next to them. In fact, the burials consisted of an adult, a teenager, and the donkey-like animal. This led the team to believe that the adult was driving a chariot and the teenager was jumping around on and off of it while the animal was pulling them.
The mystery as to why they were buried in the mound had the researchers suggesting that it wasn’t an actual war between different countries, but instead an “internal conflict”. Porter stated that during that time, there was an emergence of hierarchical societies which caused “tension between a community-based kinship society and then these narrowing elites who are in control.” In other words, locals purposely and carefully buried the dead within the monument as an act of celebrating the deceased.
Whoever they were, they were buried in what could be the world’s oldest war memorial and that’s pretty significant. A picture of Tell Banat North can be seen here.
The researchers’ study can be read in full here.