Archaeologists say White Monument in Tal Banat was tribute to war dead of 3rd millennium

The White Monument at Tal Banat, Syria. Photograph: University of Toronto

A burial mound in northern Syria has been identified by researchers as perhaps the world’s oldest known war memorial.

The site, known as the White Monument, in the town of Tal Banat had previously been thought to be an ancient mass grave of enemy fighters. However, a report published in the journal Antiquity on Friday suggests it was a memorial for the community’s battle dead from the 3rd millennium BC.

The authors of the report say the systematic placement of the dead suggests the mound was likely to be a memorial to a state army that had used chariots in battle. It also raises the possibility that enemy dead may have been among those buried.

Similar sites are dotted across northern Syria and some are thought to be monuments to conquests in battle, with vanquished armies buried haphazardly in mass graves. Many have Mesopotamian inscriptions as tributes to victory.

The White Monument was previously thought to be a mass grave of enemy fighters. Photograph: YouTube

However, the Tal Banat site differs both in the organisation of bodies and the composition of the mound itself; its careful assembly suggests it was instead compiled as a tribute to war dead.

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