the hospitality of the École faculty (pictured
above), the generous support of the University
of Notre Dame, and the permission of the Israeli Antiquities Authority,
Sheridan and a then Junior anthropology major Jennifer
Richtsmeier, began to exhume the remains from one repository in a burial
complex on the École grounds. Together they removed the
bones by layer, processing approximately 1,500 skeletal elements that first
At the end of the 1995 field season, Sheridan and Richtsmeier presented their findings to the École community. These "bone talks" (right; click on image to visit field seasons) would become a yearly occurrence as the project continued. Although originally the remains were to be reinterred in the tomb complex at the end of the season, the École enthusiastically agreed to permit another summer of exhumation and provided space to store the remains in the interim.
During the summer 1996, another 1,500 remains were removed and studied, with the help again of Jenny Richtsmeier, as well as fathers Patrick Cronauer, OSB and Eugene Kaboré, OCE. The second season brought to light a consistent pattern of pathology later related to kneeling practices. In addition, a growing collection of subadult remains were being exposed.
Significant funding was secured
1997 summer season from
the University of Notre Dame. Two theology professors joined the
research as part of a University sponsored multiyear collaborative research
initiative. Michael Driscoll
(pictured below with Sue Sheridan) brought
an expertise in liturgical studies, of particular interest given the biomechanical
findings related to kneeling. Blake
Leyerle provided a connection to patristic scholarship, with specific
interests in daily life reconstructions related to diet and the children.
In June 1997, Sheridan began a one year stay in Jerusalem sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research. She was a Fellow at the Albright, and worked in the laboratory facilities at the École Biblique. During the summer, 5 students participated in the excavations. The remaining bones were exhumed, and numerous texts of importance to understanding life in the Byzantine Near East translated. Throughout the academic year (1997-98), those remains were studied in detail by a team of 8 interns that volunteered on the project.
The Fall 1998 semester saw the return of one student on a Fulbright Fellowship to study the subadult remains. Michael Driscoll likewise spent the semester at the École, drawing upon their library holdings and the liturgical abundance of Jerusalem. Sheridan joined the Jerusalem team three times during the course of the year.
academic year saw incorporation of the project results in Sheridan's osteology
class, Driscoll's liturgy seminar, and Leyerle's patristic course, thereby
adding to the undergraduate and graduate curriculum of both the Anthropology
and Theology departments.
A fieldtrip component was added to the summer 1999 season, which included visits to research facilities around Jerusalem such as Hebrew University. The "tomb team" also ventured to several Byzantine sites, including a hike through Wadi Kelt to Choziba (St. George's monastery, pictured right). Visits to sites throughout Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Golan, and Palestine, helped illustrate the implications of Byzantine monasticism, both socially and from the standpoint of human adaptability.
To date, a detailed demographic analysis, calculation of community size, and stature reconstruction have been completed (abstract), as has a detailed description of the material culture commingled with the human remains (abstract), and an analysis of the non-human animal bone intrusions (report).
All the necessary biocultural components have been amassed permitting the St. Stephen's remains to be used as an excellent study collection and teaching tool. Years of future analysis are anticipated for this project, including further studies of daily activity patterns, dietary reconstruction, childhood health and adaptability, pilgrimage patterns, and paleopathological analysis.
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