Researchers have concluded acrobats had a respected social ranking in the northeastern Syrian city of Nagar around 4,300 years ago. That would seem good for the acrobat until someone of such a social standing was needed for sacrifice to appease the gods.
A headless acrobat’s skeleton was unearthed recently near the remains of two other headless people, some mules and assorted metal valuables. According to researchers from the University of Cambridge who are investigating the mud and brick construction known as Nagar, the area was temporarily abandoned in about 2300 B.C. following some sort of natural disaster. Residents then returned and sought to appease the gods by sacrificing valued individuals, animals and objects.
The building where the remains were discovered was used in Nagar for breeding and raising mules that pulled kings’ chariots and war wagons. It is believed the building was shuttered and remained closed following the sacrifices.
“The hub (the ancient Mesopotamian term for acrobats) at Nagar were well known, maybe even famous entertainers, so perhaps their fame was a reason for choosing one of them for sacrifice,” Joan Oates of the Cambridge team told Science News.