Belgian archaeological projects and Belgian institutions have been conducting bioarchaeological research in the Near East for several decades. Bioarchaeology consists of the study of all living organisms in archaeological contexts, i.e. animal and plant remains and human skeletons, with the aim of reconstructing the former relationship of humans with their biological environment. Bioarchaeology is therefore essential to understand the way people were able to create a livelihood in their specific environment, to what extent they were successful and how this changed through time. Especially over the last three decades, Belgian bioarchaeologists have contributed significantly to our understanding of past societies in the Near East.
Within the BArEO project, the bioarchaeological component is engaged in compiling a comprehensive inventory of this type of research carried out in the Near East within the scope of Belgian archaeological projects as well as of bioarchaeological studies performed by Belgian scientists in the region. This will result in an overview of the state of the art of Belgian bioarchaeological research in the Near East, which can direct future lines of research. Furthermore, it will provide a database where scholars and other interested parties can consult the work undertaken by Belgian bioarchaeologists.
Additionally, the bioarchaeological involvement within the BArEO project consists of processing, digitizing and archiving bioarchaeological remains from Belgian excavations in the Near East that have not yet been (fully) analysed or published. In this way the wider scientific community will be able to benefit from the results of these studies and their implications for the reconstruction of the former environment and subsistence strategies of the societies and regions under study. One of the sites that will be intensively investigated is the site of ed-Dur (United Arab Emirates) excavated by an international team of scientists, including the Belgian team of Ghent University under direction of prof. Ernie Haerinck. The vast collection of faunal remains has been partly analysed in the field and partly in the laboratories of Ghent University and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. This faunal assemblage has the potential of serving as a reference for the region and hence an in depth publication of the material will be beneficial for the archaeology of the northeastern Arabian peninsula.
Pr. Wim Van Neer
Tell Tweini (Syria), flotation
Ed-Dur, aerial view