Lebanon News

Canaanite warrior tombs unearthed in Sidon

The new findings shed light on some of the ancient southern port city’s history. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

SIDON, Lebanon: New excavations at Sidon’s Freres archaeological site have unearthed two ancient tombs of Canaanite warriors dating back to the 19th century B.C., shedding light on some of the ancient southern port city’s history.

The dig, led by the British Museum under the supervision of Sidon’s Directorate General of Antiquities, has uncovered 171 burials on the Freres site over 21 years, according to the head of the British Museum’s delegation Claude Doumet-Serhal.

The well-preserved tombs that were recently unearthed are an important discovery, as they provide information about the traditions of the ancient societies that lived along the Lebanese coast, Doumet-Serhal told The Daily Star Thursday.

The tombs housed the bodies of two adult male warriors, who were found buried with daggers and bronze belts that had been carefully placed near them. The feet of sheep or goats had been placed by the warriors’ feet, meant to accompany them in the afterworld.

Doumet-Serhal said the daggers were not used for fighting, but were significant because they showed the warriors belonged to the society’s elite: “The Canaanites did not bury in such a way unless the dead belonged to the aristocratic and elite class of the Canaanite society.”

DNA taken previously from other Canaanites graves at Freres compared to the DNA of 100 Lebanese showed 95 percent were of Canaanite descent, Doumet-Serhal said, adding, “We were never divided. We were all Canaanites, then we were Phoenicians, then the Romans came, then the Byzantines, then the Arabs.”

Excavations at the site take place for two months each summer, with this year’s dig set to end next week.

Doumet-Serhal said she hoped excavations would resume next year, as the findings would be included in Sidon’s historical museum when it opens to the public. Doumet-Serhal said the museum would feature artifacts on its first floor, and visitors could visit the dig on the ground floor.

In 2014, Sidon began construction of a museum that would preserve and showcase ruins from the various civilizations that lived in the city over a period of 6,000 years. It is unclear when the museum will open.

“The belt and the daggers excavated will be placed in this Sidon museum next to all the pieces and artifacts discovered in this site over the course of 21 years,” Doumet-Serhal said. - Writing by Sahar Houri

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 05, 2019, on page 2.

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