Julie Thomas conducted an in-depth bioarchaeological and palaeopathological investigation of The Necropolis in Seville
In 2013, bioarchaeology students from The Sanisera Field School, under the guidance of physical anthropologists, Julie Thomas conducted an in-depth bioarchaeological and palaeopathological investigation of the Las Huertas Necropolis. This 5th-7th Century Christian skeletal assemblage, housed at the Archaeology Museum of Seville, was the result of a 1985 salvage excavation in the sector of Las Huertas, near the town of La Roda de Andalucía. As is the case with most salvage archaeology, Las Huertas Necropolis was found by accident during a construction project. Consequently, aside from the severely dilapidated church found next to the cemetery, all archaeological context for this rural population has been lost. Historical records for the site are scarce, if existent. This truly is a population that time forgot. The only clues currently available to researchers about the living conditions of this community lie within the skeletons themselves, currently being examined by our students.
Students in this year’s advanced bioarchaeology course will continue to analyze the remains recovered from individual tombs in order to determine the minimum number of individuals (MNI), sex and age-at-death of the skeletons. Whenever possible, students will assess metric and non-metric traits. Students will also learn how to identify, document and interpret any pathology we observe.
Before now, very little was known about the funerary rituals practiced at Las Huertas Necropolis. Our research has revealed that males and females of all ages were buried at the site. Preliminary results imply that some sort of social stratification or class structure existed. Grave goods, such as jewelry and fragments from funerary jars, were found with skeletons recovered from more elaborately constructed tombs. No grave good of this kind were recovered from
the other types of tombs found at the site. The teeth indicate that the people ate an abrasive diet low in carbohydrates. The teeth also suggest that about one third of the people suffered periods of stress, such as disease outbreaks or famines, fairly regularly, perhaps even annually. Changes observed in the bones, including joint diseases, imply that, starting at a young age, members of this community engaged in strenuous physical activities. Further analysis of individual tombs should reveal more about the health, nutrition and funerary practices of this rural population.
Bioarchaeology students from the Sanisera Field School
Students will also learn how to identify, document and interpret any pathology