Buried with turtles: the symbolic role of the Euphrates soft-shelled turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) in Mesopotamia

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Berthon R., ERDAL Y. S., MASHKOUR M., Kozbe G.

ANTIQUITY, vol.90, no.349, pp.111-125, 2016 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 90 Issue: 349
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.15184/aqy.2015.196
  • Journal Name: ANTIQUITY
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.111-125
  • Keywords: Mesopotamia, Kavuan Hoyuk, post-Assyrian, Euphrates soft-shelled turtle, chelonian, SOFTSHELL TURTLE, TESTUDINES
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Excavations at Kavus, an Hoyuk (southeastern Turkey) have revealed evidence of the use of turtles, tortoises and terrapins in post-Assyrian funerary practices. Of particular significance are the remains of the Euphrates soft-shelled turtle (Rafetus euphraticus), distinguished from other species of turtle by their quantity and treatment in the burial pit under investigation here. The unique finds from Kavus, an Hoyuk, coupled with archaeological and textual records, underline the economic and symbolic significance of these animals for communities in prehistoric and early historical Mesopotamia.