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13 June 2007

Four Chamber Tombs at Audemou-Kamares, Cyprus (ca. 2000-1700 BC) - Preliminary Osteological Analysis

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This paper was published originally in the "Ancient Cyprus Web Project" and should be referenced as:

L. Karali and A. Tsaliki (2001) Four Chamber Tombs at Audemou-Kamares, Cyprus (ca. 2000-1700 BC) - Preliminary Osteological Analysis, Ancient Cyprus Web Project, Web document:

Four Chamber Tombs at Audemou-Kamares, Cyprus

(c. 2000-1700 BC)

Preliminary Osteological Analysis


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The four chamber tombs contained rich assemblages of both human and animal remains. The preliminary results are presented here. Further osteological analysis, interpretation, and comparison with other sites are forthcoming at the RDAC (Report of Antiquities of Cyprus) journal.
Methodology: Based on the excavation data, we concluded that the bones had been recovered according to their taphonomic scattering. Therefore, their in situ position is of no ritual burial value. The identification of human and animal bones has been painstaking as the fragments reached high numbers (tens of hundreds). The bones were studied macro- and micro- scopically (Bass 1995, Brothwell 1981, Hillson 1992, Schmid 1972, White 1991). Two small bags with grave filling have also been thoroughly examined (from Tombs 16 and 17).
Results: The grave filling consisted of soil sediment, roots, tiny bone, tooth, shell, and pottery fragments, insect remains, charcoal, seeds, and a bead from T 17. The bones from all the tombs were heavily damaged and fragmented due to taphonomic conditions and modern human handling. They were covered by sediments and/or bore signs of weathering and/or animal scavenging.
1. Human remains:
¨ Tomb 14: MNI = 1 adult Female (?). The bones of the cranial vault were heavy, with thickened diploe and mild porotic hyperostosis.
¨ Tomb 15: MNI= 2 => 1 younger and 1 older adult. One lumbar vertebra showed marked osteophytosis and a large Schmorl’s node. Osteochondritis dissecans has been observed on a patella.
¨ Tomb 16: MNI = 2 => 1 young gracile adult aged 18-22 years-old (based on the femoral head and  the lesser trochanter fusion) and 1 child aged approx. 9 years-old (based on the estimated length of the incomplete left radius, and on the morphology of the development of the root and on the attrition of a permanent 2nd left mandibular premolar).
¨ Tomb 17: MNI = 4 => 1 adult Male, 1 young adult aged 23-35 years-old (Suchey and Brooks method), 1 gracile adult, another adult (based on the epiphyseal unions of long bones), and 1 child of approx. 5 years of age (based on the estimated length and the morphology of the incomplete left femur and humerus). Squatting facets from dorsiflexion were observed on an adult calcaneus, and one metacarpal shows active periostitis with new bone addition.
2. Animal Remains: Bone and teeth fragments revealed the presence of: Lepus (hare), Mus (mouse), Sus (pig), Equus (horse), Bos (cow), Avis (bird) - Gallus (chicken) has been positively identified -, Ovis / Capra (Sheep/ Goat). Possible presence of Cervidae. Two crab claws (Carcinus sp.) were found in Tomb 16. Cut marks on bones were recorded and absence of or separately found animal epiphyses confirm the killing of subadult individuals. The above mentioned animal species were common to almost all tombs. Some animals were scavengers, trapped in the tombs accidentally. The bones found represent all parts of the animal (i.e. skull, main body, and limbs). Number of individuals, sexing, more specific ageing, and metrical analysis could not be applied due to the high fragmentation of the bones. From T 15 three small pieces (approx. 1 x 2 - 2.5 cm) of worked bone bearing circular symmetrical motifs have been recovered.
Conclusions: Many bones from all tombs bore gray spotting, probably from contact with ash and/or burnt grave offerings. The highly weathered surface of the bones made observation and identification difficult, as in the majority of cases the diagnostic morphological markers were erased or altered. Erosion also prohibits secure diagnosis of pathological conditions on the bones, as it may have produced cases of “pseudo pathology”.

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¨ Bass, W.M. (1995) Human Osteology: A Laboratory And Field Manual (4th ed.), Missouri
¨ Brothwell, D.R. (1981) Digging up Bones (3rd ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford
¨ Brooks, S. and Suchey, J.M. (1990) Skeletal age determination based on the Os Pubis: a comparison of the Ascadi -Nemeskeri and Suchey-Brooks methods, Human Evolution 5: 227-238
¨ Hillson, S. (1992) Mammal Bone and Teeth: An Introductory Guide to Methods of Identification, London
¨ Schmid, E. (1972) Atlas of Animal Bones, Amsterdam- London - New York
¨ White, T. (1991) Human Osteology, New York

The above text was part of the Poster Presentation:

Manginis G., Karali L., Tsaliki A., and Vavouranakis G. (2001) An Interdisciplinary Approach Towards Burial Practices in Prehistoric Bronze Age Cyprus: Artifactual and Osteological Material from Audemou-Kamares. Poster presented at the 3rd BABAO Annual Conference, Durham University, 14-15 July 2001.


This joint study programme integrates a wider interpretative scope with analytical methods. It aims to reach a better understanding of burial practices in Prehistoric Cyprus than the usual rescue excavation reports, mainly providing descriptive typologies, and scarce osteological studies, often in isolation with each other. In 1994, the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus excavated four chamber tombs at Audemou-Kamares, a cemetery dating to the Prehistoric Bronze Age (PreBA) 2 (c. 2000-1700). Despite the disturbed context, the finds provide a rich repertoire of storage, serving and consuming vessels. Nonetheless, the potential of such an assemblage can only be enabled if complemented with the osteological analysis.
The individuals identified reach a minimum number of nine: seven adults (both males and females) and two young subadults. They are accompanied by various animal species (eg. Bos, Equus, Ovis, Capra, Mus, Lepus, Avis), some in ritual relation with the dead, bearing cut marks as well, and some being taphonomic intruders. An integrated approach will show how the dead, the artifacts, and the ecofacts should be studied in close relation to each other. In particular, human remains and animal bones can indicate how the artifacts operated in functional as well as wider social and symbolic contexts.

The final publication of the material can be found (in Greek) at:

Vavouranakis G., Karali L., Manginis G., and Tsaliki A. (2004) The tombs at the site Audemou-Kamares: the contribution of salvage excavation in the understanding of material culture and of historical-social acts in Prehistoric Cyprus (in Greek with English abstract), Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus (2004): 149-168.

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