The People Left Behind: Four Victims of the Destruction of the Late Bronze Age City of Azekah

Student Researcher:
Karl Berendt

Supervisor / Principle Investigator:
Sandra Garvie-Lok

MD Class of 2022


In the late 12th century BCE, the Canaanite city of Azekah was violently destroyed. From the destruction layer, the skeletal remains of four individuals were discovered in an elite dwelling and/or manufacturing facility. This presentation details the final results of analysis of these skeletons, using osteological and archaeological data to reconstruct a profile of their lives, and the events of their deaths. Morphological evidence for age at death and biological sex, analysis of pathology and trauma, habitual activity reconstruction, stable isotope analysis, and analysis of taphonomic processes are methods which each add details to this story.

The analysis shows that these four individuals were teenagers and adults of mixed sex. Despite the apparent elite context, they show signs that they suffered from poor nutrition, disease, and heavy physical labour during life. The evidence indicates that they died suddenly in the burning and collapse of this building, and seemingly no attempt was made to recover their bodies. Borrowing methods from forensic anthropology, the fire scene is reconstructed, giving clues to what happened in their final moments.

This new information is discussed in context with what we currently know about households and cottage industry in the Late Bronze Age, and what happened in this city’s destruction. It is also compared to destruction layer skeletons at other sites in the Southern Levant. Taken together, the results of this analysis provide the first human perspective on Azekah’s Late Bronze Age society in the moment of its destruction.