Future Directions
Synthesis 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 dictates.


Pilgrimage Patterns:

      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 St. Stephen's.
     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.

Dietary reconstruction:

     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?
     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.

Daily Activity Patterns:

     A biocultural reconstruction conducted on this collection showed a connection between pathologies found throught the lower skeleton and liturical practies (Bautch, Sheridan).  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 repetative motions.

Childhood 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.

Disease Stress:

     A survey 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.

Excavation 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.

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