of the following areas of investigation will permit discussion of themes
of broad relevence, such as quality of life, the importance of the symbolic,
attitudes towards suffering, deference to authority, maintenance of hierarchy,
social status, politial/economic networks, urban versus rural monasticism,
the role of children in monastic communites, and adherence to ascetical
Theories abound regarding the composition of monastic communities
in Byzantine Palestine. According to the literature, pilgrimage to
holy sites was a major cultural phenomenon which saw its zenith during
the 5th-7th centuries in Jerusalem. Recently however, scholars have
begun to question the validity of these reports, stating that the pilgrimage
accounts so prevalent for this period in fact reflect the writings of an
elite minority. They dispute the distant origins of most monks, claiming
instead that the majority were from the surrounding region. By studying
the genetic evidence for relatedness Îfrozenâ in the skeletal
and dental remains, in conjunction with the historical accounts which survive
in chronicles, ecclesiastical histories, saint's lives, and panegyrics,
the proposed focus of the first summer of the program will attempt to understand
the diversity of people represented by the large monastic community at
Many studies have surveyed genetically produced dental and skeletal anomalies
in isolated populations to determine the degree of relatedness among its
members. While such studies can not delimit the specific geographic origin
of the inhabitants, they can determine the degree of heterogeneity within
the group. Thus, by studying nonmetric and metric traits of the bones and
teeth, the degree of structural diversity can be assessed at St. Stephen's.
The cultural record will then provide an understanding of the points of
origin for these inhabitants, should the community prove to be heterogeneous
in nature. However, should significant homogeneity be found, this
would tend to support a group of related individuals likely originating
from the surrounding region.
Given the very large sample size, the degree of preservation of the bones
and teeth, the importance of St. Stephen's to the Byzantine church and
the resultant historical accounts for the site, this study promises to
contribute importantly to our understanding of pilgrimage to the "house
of the Lord" (Ps 122) during the early Byzantine period.
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
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
Comparable to prayer, 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.
A biocultural reconstruction conducted on this collection showed
a connection between pathologies found throught the lower skeleton and
liturical practies (Bautch,
The biomechanical reconstruction demonstrated overwhelming evidence of
kneeling as a daily, highly repetitive motion. Analysis of the historical
texts, particularly liturgical references, explained numerous variations
of genuflection as the probable cause.
Additional biomechanical reconstructions of "occupational stress" are possible
in the upper body. An unusal suite of anomalies has been found
in the right shoulder girdle, prevelant throughout the collection.
Detailed study of the hands and wrist may likewise provide insights into
Health and Adaptibility:
Without question, the most surprising find associated with the St.
Stephen's collection were the plethora of subadults. One third of
the 15,000+ remains are those of children under 16 years of age.
To date, there is still no concrete explanation for their presence -- were
they oblates (young monastics)? Did the monastery run an orphanage?
school? hospital? Were they the focal work of the monastery?
Are they children from the surrounding community who were buried in the
tombs due to the proximity of a saint or to "holy men" asffiliated with
the community? Although much appears in the literature of the time
about St. Stephen's monastery, no mention is made of the presence of children.
Were they such a common occurrence that they did not require mention?
A survey of disease stress, stature, age and sex profiles for these remains
will begin to address these questions. Much of the preliminary data
are collected for such analyses.
of pathologies in the St. Stephen's collection has demonstrated an abnormally
low incidence of disease stress in this community. A detailed examination
of multiple aspects of paleopathology - tramatic cancerous, infectious,
inflammatory, and congenital lesions - will provide an important component
of the overall health profile of the community.
of Byzantine Tombs:
The remains exhumed to date were found in an unusual tomb for the
Byzantine period, one with perhaps an oral tradition of being the tombs
of the Davidic kings (the last kings of Judah). The excellent health
and overall size of the remains, plus the unique burial context suggest
that the current collection represents the elites of the community.
However, around the grounds of the École Biblique are many tombs
of traditional Byzantine typology. Five are currently accessible,
and it is believed many others remain undiscovered. Future analysis
of the remains found in these tombs will permit a comparison of burial
context and possible status differentiation in the community. Do
we find comparable levels of robusticity? disease patterns? age and
sex profiles? pathologies
related to daily activities? grave goods?
By enhancing the archaeological component of the trivariate approach, the
proposed foci promises to add significantly to our understanding of Byzantine
material culture, and the social and
symbolic system of burial ritual for the site and the region.