Baby's Ashes Discovered in Ancient Jar

Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria
Associated Press
December 3, 2007

Syrian archaeologists have discovered an ancient glass jar containing an infant's ashes at one of the Mideast's most famous archaeological sites.

The discovery of the second-century A.D. jar amid the ruins of Palmyra was the first of its kind, shedding light on previously unknown funeral practices common at the time, Khalil Hariri, a senior Syrian archaeological official, told the Associated Press.

Archaeologists unearthed the jar from a newly discovered cemetery within Palmyra, said Hariri. The ashes inside the container, which measured 9.5 inches (24 centimeters) in height and 7 inches (18 centimeters) in diameter, revealed that the infant had been cremated, he added.

Hariri said the mission discovered pottery, furniture, and lamps in the cemetery, as well as glass vials in which mourners put their tears.

He could not provide further details, pending studies on the new discoveries.

Palmyra, located some 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Syria's capital Damascus, was the center of an Arab client state to the Roman empire and thrived on the caravan trades across the desert to Mesopotamia and Persia, especially after the decline of ancient Petra in Jordan.

Under Queen Zenobia, the city rebelled against Roman rule and briefly carved out an independent desert Arab kingdom before being reconquered and razed by the Romans.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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