A mass ancient cemetery, seven rooms large and revealing a number of human bodies, has been discovered dug into rocks near the city of Tartus in western Syria, archaeologists from the Syrian Department of Antiquities have reported. One of the rooms contained a large basalt sarcophagus, with a human face engraved on it. Other small items located have included vessels, two small golden pieces and a clay lamp.
The sarcophagus is a large, human-shaped basin with a lid and a protruding shelf all around the edges (see here for a picture of it). Details of the face such as sunken lines in the forehead suggests the coffin was for a male of old age, with almond eyes, a long nose and neatly manicured facial hair. The body is undecorated. The artefact has been transported to the Syrian National Museum for further study. Another solo tomb was additionally found 23 metres to the northeast of the cemetery which is located near the Tartuss al-Basel Hospital carved into limestone rocks. It revealed three heavily degraded human skulls, some clay jars and some bronze and gold jewelry.
Founded as the Phoenician colony of Antarudus, Tartus has a history stretching back to the 2nd millennium BC. It was linked to two larger and more important nearby settlements, the island-city of Arwad (for which Antarudus acted as a mainland base) and the temple city of Amrit. Not much remains of Phoenician Antarudus, which was later occupied by the Greco-Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Muslims and the Ottomans.
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