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updated 12/1/2007 7:54:47 PM ET 2007-12-02T00:54:47

Syrian archaeologists have discovered an ancient glass jar containing an infant's ashes at one of the Mideast's most famous sites from Classical antiquity.

The discovery of the 2nd century A.D. jar amid the ruins of Palmyra was the first of its kind, shedding light on previously unknown funeral practices common at the time, Khalil Hariri, a senior Syrian archaeological official, told The Associated Press late Friday.

Archaeologists unearthed the jar from a newly discovered cemetery within Palmyra, said Hariri. The ashes inside the container, which measured 24 centimeters (9.5 inches) in height and 18 centimeters (7.0 inches) in diameter, revealed that the infant had been cremated, he added.

Hariri said the mission discovered pottery, furniture and lamps in the cemetery, as well as glass vials in which mourners put their tears. He could not provide further details, pending studies on the new discoveries.

Palmyra, located some 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Syria's capital Damascus, was the center of an Arab client state to the Roman empire and thrived on the caravan trades across the desert to Mesopotamia and Persia, especially after the decline of ancient Petra in Jordan.

Under Queen Zenobia, the city rebelled against Roman rule and briefly carved out an independent desert Arab kingdom before being re-conquered and razed by the Romans.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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