Archaeologists: Mound outside Tel Banat in northern Syria mound possibly first war memorial

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — Researchers and archaeologists believe that a burial mound in the Tel Banat area in North and East Syria may be the oldest known war memorial in the world and the construction of the memorial could provide fertile ground for archaeological research.

In a discovery believed to be the first known organized war memorial anywhere in the world, archaeologists uncovered a mysterious burial hill built in the Tel al-Banat area of northern and eastern Syria some 4,400 years ago.

Archaeologists stated that the hill at Tel Banat — referred to as “White Monument” — south of the town of Kobanî (Ayn al-Arab) in North and East Syria was a tribute to war dead dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. The site gets its name from its former gypsum covering which would have given it a white sheen which would have been visible for kilometers in the surrounding plain.

Regrettably, most of the site was flooded at the end of the 1990s due to the construction of the Tishreen Dam several kilometers downstream. The sections that remained above water level were later heavily damaged by the Islamic State, who took control of the region in the early years of the Syriac Civil War.

The site was previously believed to be an ancient mass grave of enemy fighters, but a new paper by University of Toronto Professor Anne Porter concludes that the memorial appears to have been for the community ’s battle dead, rather than enemies.

The paper notes that the construction of the memorial, a major project at the time, would have sent a message to neighboring communities, and raised the possibility that the importance of other sites in northern and central Syria was not fully understood and could provide fertile ground for archaeological research.