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VIRTUAL - Life and Death in Medieval Polis, Cyprus

March 11, 2021 @ 7:30 pm EST Pacific Time

This is an online event.

AIA Society: Walla Walla

Lecturer: Brenda Baker

A wealth of material attesting to life and death in ancient Marion (Roman Arsinoë) has been uncovered during two decades of excavation by Princeton University’s Expedition to Polis Chrysochous, on the northwest coast of Cyprus.  Burials of more than 300 individuals clustered in and around two early sixth-century basilicas. One basilica was used to the eleventh century, while the other was reused after a hiatus for burials from the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, extending into the Venetian period. Comparison of mortuary evidence from both basilicas indicates various ways of accommodating the dead. Analysis of the skeletal remains provides insight into the lives and activities of the Late Antique to late medieval populace, along with their treatment in death. This work reveals evidence for the sexual division of labor. Patterns of grooves and notches on anterior teeth suggest their use in aspects of textile production and is found predominately, though not exclusively in females. Bone needles were found with three of these individuals and features on their bones are consistent with occupational stress attributed to tailors and associated with habitual kneeling, squatting, and sitting. Healed fractures are far more common in males, indicating they performed labor that put them at greater risk of accidental trauma. Women, however, disproportionately suffered violent trauma. The prevalence of infection is low, although one young adult female was afflicted with leprosy—the only archaeological example documented on the island to date.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Baker, Brenda J., and Katelyn L. Bolhofner. Biological and Social Implications of a Medieval Burial from Cyprus for Understanding Leprosy in the Past.  International Journal of Paleopathology 4(2014):17-24.

Baker, Brenda J., and Amy Papalexandrou. 2012. A Bioarchaeological Perspective on the Burials and Basilicas of Medieval Polis, Cyprus.  In Bioarchaeology and Behavior: The People of the Ancient Near East, edited by Megan A. Perry, pp. 80-114.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Baker, Brenda J., Claire E. Terhune, and Amy Papalexandrou. 2012. Sew Long? The Osteobiography of a Woman from Medieval Polis, Cyprus.  In The Bioarchaeology of Individuals, edited by Ann L.W. Stodder and Ann Palkovich, pp. 151-161. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Golden Trowel Lecture

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March 11, 2021
7:30 pm EST
Event Category:


Sarah H. Davies


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