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Turtles were part of Assyrian burial.

Ancient Assyrians sent their dead to the afterlife with fearsome companions: turtles. Excavations of a burial pit in southeastern Turkey revealed skeletons of a woman and a child, plus 21 turtles, a team led by archaeologist Remi Berthon of France's National Museum of Natural History in Paris reports in the February Antiquity.

The burial is part of an Assyrian site called Kavusan Hoyiik that dates to between 700 and 300 B.C. The turtle bonanza included shells from one spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) and three Middle Eastern terrapins (Mauremys caspica), plus bones from 17 Euphrates soft-shelled turtles (Rafetus euphraticus). Butchering marks on the R. euphraticus bones suggest the turtles were eaten in a funerary feast, write Berthon and colleagues.

Back then, turtles were not a regular meal in Mesopotamia. Turtle bones, however, were thought to ward off evil. The abundance of R. euphraticus turtles, an aggressive species, in this burial pit indicates that the deceased had high social status.

To ancient Assyrians, the team writes, these ferocious reptiles probably represented eternal life and served as psychopomps --mythical guides to the afterlife.

Caption: An Assyrian woman and child were buried with many turtles (R. euphraticus shoulder bones circled in red).


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Title Annotation:HOW BIZARRE
Author:Thompson, Helen
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Apr 30, 2016
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