The ‘Invisible Dead’ in the Levant

The ‘Invisible Dead’ Project is almost into month ten of research and with another three months of data collection to go there are still a lot of sites and ‘Invisible Dead’ to be recorded.  However, after months of hard work it is about time to share some information on our current progress.

For the Levant, we have recorded c.12,000 individuals from over 500 sites dating from the Neolithic to the Roman period (c.10,000 BC – AD 400).  By the end of the project we hope to have basic database records listing information such as the minimum number of individuals (MNI), age/sex of individuals and data on the different types of material culture found in burial contexts (e.g. beads, bowls, jars, pins etc.).  This information is being entered for EVERY site with human skeletal material in the Levant, whether it is interpreted as a cemetery, formal burial site or a rubbish deposit.

Early Bronze Age I Shaft Tomb (A110 NE Chamber) from Bab edh Dhra, Jordan (Image Courtesy of Bruno Frohlich). Due to the quality and quantity of information available, Bab edh Dhra represents one of the key sites for interpreting Early Bronze Age (EBA) burial practices in the Southern Levant. Using published material we have recorded over 1000 individuals from this site.  Via the project database we will be able to compare data from Bab edh Dhra with information from other sites in the Levant, as well as from cemeteries/burials from Britain dating to the same chronological period.

One of the main challenges for this project has been trying to collate data from a huge number of different sources. These range in date, detail, accuracy and accessibility. By working with a database framework originally designed by a team from Durham University for the Fragile Crescent Project (, we are beginning to be able to explore some interesting questions, such as the different relationships between particular types of material culture and possible types of person, the role of the individual versus the collective in the past and the possible links between religion and ideology and mortuary/funerary practices.

As we move into the next few months and start our preliminary data analysis we will be sharing our findings on this blog on a more regular basis and asking for your opinions.  In the meantime we will be posting about conferences that members of the ‘Invisible Dead’ Project team have attended and presented at, including the recent Death, Dying and Disposal conference held in Milton Keynes and the annual British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology conference being hosted by the University of York this weekend.

For further information about the project visit our Durham webpage ( get in touch with us using the form below.


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