The particularity with Khirbet el Umbashi, a site located in the Southern Syrian desert region of Safaa, is an enormous accumulation of burnt and calcinated bones situated within a restricted sector of the site. The accumulation of the bones probably took place at the beginning of the third millennium BC. The fundamental difference between the material from the bone accumulation and that from the habitation quarters, yet dating toward the end of the third millennium BC, is revealed by the frequencies of documented species. Whereas the proportion of cattle bones is extremely high within the former it is significantly smaller as observed within the habitation contexts. The common features between the entities consist of the predominance of caprine material, especially from sheep, and the absence of wild animals, except of gazella, and carnivores, as well as the extreme scarcity of equids. The ensuing problems on the one hand relate to the causes and the reason for the accumulation of bones at this restricted find spot; on the other, they call for an explanation how the proportion of cattle bones could reach this extent within an arid zone context, being markedly larger compared with the values obtained from the neighbouring site of Jawa.
Syria, Bronze Age, bone accumulation, arid zone, cattle