2000 Field School Research Summary

The Summer 2000 Field School participants collected data related to subsistence for inclusion in a paper on diet reconstruction for the community.  They concentrated on aspects of the dentition, scoring dental wear patterns, calculous (tartar) build-up, and carious lesions (cavities).  This research will compliment data collected in past field seasons, and a jointly authored manuscript with the students will be submitted to the journal Revue Biblique in November.   Click on image below to move down to specific Summer 2000 descriptions.

Subsistence is a driving force of evolution and has thus long been of interest to anthropologists. Aspects of daily life, especially those related to diet, have seen a recent fluorescence in both theological and Near Eastern studies circles. The St. Stephen's collection provides a natural "control group" to study dietary practice -- the regimented daily activity patterns so clearly documented in the literature provide the mechanism by which to frame a series of testable hypotheses related to Byzantine subsistence in a monastic setting.

Numerous aspects of the bones and teeth provide information related to diet, including:  growth and development (stature and robusticity), oral pathologies (such as cavities), cranial lesions related to iron intake, cortical bone maintenance, macro- and microscopic patterns of dental attrition (tooth wear), and chemical analysis of the inorganic and organic fractions of bone.

At St. Stephen's, the dictates of the monastic lifestyle called for a strict vegetarian diet, accentuated by minimal caloric intake.  However, the skeletal evidence indicates a group of large, muscular men with no evidence of dietary stress, including iron deficiency.  Were the members of this community eating more than the literature on monastic diet indicates?  Were they ingesting animal protein, providing a rich source of bioavailable iron?

Ascetical practices related to diet are well-documented in the historical literature of the period, with strictly prescribed menus, food preparation procedures, dining times, and quantities consumed dictated.  Likewise, the archaeological record for the period and region provides further comparative information for reconstruction of monastic dietary practice.

Thus, a connection between subsistence patterns manifest in the bones and teeth, analyzed in conjunction with the textual evidence of ascetical practices related to diet, promise a further mechanism for demonstrating the importance of a holistic approach to studying life in antiquity.

CALCULUS BUILD-UP  by August Maggio 
All the teeth were compared for degree of calculus build-up and location of deposits.   Small samples were taken for later chemical analysis of the calculus.  Used the scoring method for absent, minimal, moderate, and severe shown in the Buikstra's Standards.
CARIOUS LESIONS - Mandible  by Christin Engstrom 
The location and frequency of carious lesions were scored for all the mandibular teeth.  Incidence and severity were then compared with the maxillary data, and with other skeletal collections.
CARIOUS LESIONS - Maxilla  by Patrick O'Donnell  (Summer 2000)
The location and frequency of carious lesions were scored for all the maxillary teeth.  Incidence and severity were then compared with the mandibular data, and with other skeletal collections.
DENTAL ATTRITION  by Christina Fitch & Kelly Jordan
Analysis of all the teeth of the maxilla and mandible for degree of wear using methods developed by Smith and by Molnar.  Each student scored all the teeth using each method.  Degree of attrition was then compared by method, and interobserver variability assessed between investigators.

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