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The edge of the city: urban growth and burial space in 4th millennium BC Mesopotamia
In the 4th millennium BC, Mesopotamia witnessed the world’s first urban settlements and associated economic and political complexities. However, the burial practices of this period are poorly known, leaving a gap in our reconstruction of the social implications of this important transition. The funerary traditions of the preceding and succeeding 5th and 3rd millennium BC in Mesopotamia are well-known, but there does not appear to be a continuum of practice across the intervening millennium. This paper explores the current state of knowledge of burial practices in 4th millennium BC Mesopotamia, including an under-examined adult-infant dichotomy. Based on recently-excavated data from Tell Brak in northeast Syria, we propose a model of site-edge burial during the urban transition in northern Mesopotamia.