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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Charlotte Roberts

Jurmain, R. & Roberts, C.A. (2008). Juggling the evidence: the purported 'acrobat' from Tell Brak. Antiquity 82(318).

Author(s) from Durham


We are responding to the submission by Oates et al., 'Equids and an "acrobat": closure rituals at Tell Brak' ( The paper describes the interpretation of a partially preserved skeleton with bone changes that indicate ‘habitual energetic activity’ (p. 398), or a person who was ‘physically active, using jumping and twisting movements in a very disciplined way with the feet pointed downwards during leaps, as can be seen in modern dancers’ (p. 396). While we acknowledge that the skeleton was deposited in an unusual way, and that documentary sources at Elba and seals at Tell Brak suggest people were present who were characterised as 'always jumping about' (translation of a Semitic word which can also infer an 'entertainer, juggler or horseman'), we would like to explore further what is described as the main subject of this article, namely the 'occupational' interpretation of an incomplete skeleton as that of an 'acrobat.'