Strontium and oxygen isotopic evidence of the origins of homicide victims from Middle Islamic Period Qasr Hallabat


Qasr Hallabat, a luxurious Umayyad (7th – 8th century A.D.) desert retreat in Jordan, declined after the mid-8th century due to political destabilization and earthquakes. Despite official abandonment, the qasr’s extensive hydraulic resources were utilized by local groups. Excavation and restoration of the qasr by the Spanish Archaeological Mission discovered the remains of six individuals at the bottom of an internal cistern, a precious regional water source. These individuals, who perished between 772-895 CAL A.D., showed perimortem blunt and sharp force trauma. While it is clear that these individuals were victims of homicide, the reason for dumping their corpses into a viable water source remains uncertain. This latter situation makes it likely that the perpetrators were non-locals, but who were the victims?

Strontium and oxygen isotope ratios from dental enamel were used to identify their origins, which can shed light on the circumstances surrounding their death. When compared to archaeological faunal samples and published data on regional oxygen and strontium isotope variation, it is possible to determine if these individuals are from geological region similar to Hallabat. If they are indeed locals, this would indicate that the Hallabat region continued to be an economic crossroads even after the post-Umayyad decline.

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Strontium and oxygen isotopic evidence of the origins of homicide victims from Middle Islamic Period Qasr Hallabat. Kathryn Parker, Megan Perry, Drew Coleman, David Dettman. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398419)

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