Commingled Tombs and ArcGIS: Analyzing the Mortuary Context and Taphonomy at Bronze Age Tell Abraq

by Maryann Calleja

Institution: University of Nevada – Las Vegas
Year: 2016
Keywords: 3D; Bronze Age; Existing Data; Geographic Information Systems; Tomb; Archaeological Anthropology; Biological and Physical Anthropology
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2063630
Full text PDF: http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/thesesdissertations/2648


The use of global positioning systems (GPS) and mapping software are commonplace in today’s archaeology. Artifacts and human remains can be plotted on maps and digitized immediately on sites allowing for instant analysis. Yet, the use of GPS in some locations may not be feasible due to natural or human-made terrain features such as canopy cover, densely built urban environments, caves, or other environments where satellite access may be limited. Additionally, prior to the widespread use of GPS, field archaeologists had to rely solely upon systematic, detailed notes and sketches. Such was the case at the Bronze Age tomb at Tell Abraq in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Excavation of the tomb from 1993 to 1998 yielded more than 27,000 commingled human bone fragments constituting the remains of more than 400 individuals, each provenience handwritten in notebooks. While this method is still a large part of today’s archaeology, there has been a shift towards implementing time-saving, precision technological methods when possible. Geographic information systems (GIS) are but one method of storing, manipulating, and analyzing spatial data. When combined with bioarchaeological data, it can be used as a tool to aid in analysis. Although a great number of current archaeological studies may utilize GIS, this study combines the current technology of GIS with old handwritten data; transforming it into a format compatible with GIS. Applying GIS techniques enhances the ability to perform spatial analyses on the tomb, thus enabling a more thorough examination of mortuary practices and taphonomy at Tell Abraq. The bioarchaeological analysis of the tomb, the human remains, and the mortuary component then provides invaluable insight into past biological and cultural conditions. Advisors/Committee Members: Debra Martin, Alan Simmons, Liam Frink, John Curry.