The remains of a child wearing a dragon-headed bracelet on each arm have been discovered in an ancient necropolis near Van, eastern Turkey. The burial was unearthed last year in an excavation at the Castle of Çavuştepe, about 15 miles southeast of Van, where archaeologists have been exploring a 2,750-year-old necropolis.
Van, then named Tushpa, was the capital of the Urartian kingdom that ruled what is now eastern Anatolia from the 9th century B.C. until the early 6th century. The necropolis dates to the reign of Sarduri II (r. 764–735 B.C.) who built the fortress of Çavuştepe at the peak of Urartu’s power in the region. The remains of defensive walls of the citadel, a royal palace, a temple, the king’s tower and service areas were unearthed in excavations from 1961 to 1986, but the necropolis was unknown until the latest program of excavations began three years ago.
The necropolis was where the elite of Urartu who lived in the castle citadel were interred. Archaeologists have unearthed burials with large amounts of jewelry including silver necklaces, dozens of earrings, a lion brooch and a belt decorated with mythological characters. The small child, only three years old at time of death, buried with rich furnishings was certainly a member of the Urartu aristocracy. The finely-crafted dragon-headed copper bracelets are unique finds in the region. Beads from a necklace, originally threaded on a now-decomposed string or leather cord, surround his neck. At his head is a small ceramic bowl with food offerings still inside.
His lavish grave goods are evidence that the Urartu elites buried young children with meticulous care to send them well-accessorized to the afterlife.