University News

UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Showcases 'Death Pit' at Open House May 5


In south-central Turkey, the locals call the earthenmound Domuztepe,Turkish for pig hill. But a team of UCLA and University of Manchesterarchaeologists know that the former stomping grounds of wild boar had a lessbucolic past — thanks to the discovery of a mass burial site they call the"death pit."

Between 1997 and 2002, the team painstakingly excavated theremains of more than 40 decapitated and dismembered people who met their endsome 7,500 years ago. Although the mound is one of earliest mass burial sitesever discovered, the archaeologists still aren't sure what they have on theirhands.

Who dismantled the bodies and why? And were the teeth markson the bones actually made — as they appear to be — by humans?

"We're trying to find out whether we're looking at warfare,cannibalism or some kind of ritual we don't know about," said Elizabeth Carter,lead archaeologist on the dig and a researcher with UCLA's CotsenInstitute of Archaeology. "We're just trying to piece together the evidence."

The Domuztepe riddle is among thereal-life mysteries from the world of archaeology that will be on display from1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, when the Cotsen Institute at UCLA — the nation's largest collectionof working archaeologists — throws open its doors to the public.

The open house will be the largest public glimpse to dateinside the world-famous institution, where 75 working archaeologists analyzeand store their findings. In addition to the mysteries of the 7,500-year-old Domuztepe bones, the public can ponder the actual toolsthat gave the Stone Age its name, a technique of identifying pottery with onlymicroscopic slivers of shard, and methods of usingcharcoal to deduce the agricultural practices of the past.

In all, 15 labs will showcase archaeological projects fromsites as nearby as the Channel Islands and the Mojave Desert to those asdistant as Confucius' China and Anthony and Cleopatra's Egypt.

Five renowned Cotsenarchaeologists will also give brief presentations about their exciting escapades,including a Chilespecialist who last summer led a rappelling team that retrieved eight mummiesfrom cliffside burial sites exposed suddenly duringfreak rains.


In recognition of Cinco de Mayo,Mesoamerican craft stations will offer children the opportunity to make Mayanhieroglyphs, color Mayan calendars and construct Ojos de Dios, or eyes of God, ancient diamond-shaped symbols madeby the Huichol Indians of Mexico and the Aymara Indians of Bolivia.

Also in recognition of Cinco de Mayo, the FowlerMuseum at UCLA will be open and at 2and 3:30 p.m. will lead free tours of their collection of ceramics from Mexico and South America.


The institute and itsarchaeology labs are housed in the basement of the Fowler Museumbuilding on northern edge of the UCLA campus. For information, call (310)206-8934 or visit

Admission to the Cotsen Instituteand the Fowler Museum is free. Parking on campus is $8.Lot 4 is the closest parking structure to theFowler. (Enter off Sunset Boulevard or Westwood Plaza.)



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