Archaeologists in southeastern Turkey have discovered an Iron Age chiseled stone slab that provides the first written evidence in the region that people believed the soul was separate from the body.
University of Chicago researchers will describe the discovery, a testimony created by an Iron Age official that includes an incised image of the man, on Nov. 22-23 at conferences of biblical and Middle Eastern archaeological scholars in Boston.
The Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago found the 800-pound basalt stele, 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, at Zincirli (pronounced “Zin-jeer-lee”), the site of the ancient city of Sam’al. Once the capital of a prosperous kingdom, it is now one of the most important Iron Age sites under excavation.
The stele is the first of its kind to be found intact in its original location, enabling scholars to learn about funerary customs and life in the eighth century B.C. At the time, vast empires emerged in the ancient Middle East, and cultures such as the Israelites and Phoenicians became part of a vibrant mix.