Julie Thomas talks to us about Ancient Cold Cases in Seville, Spain

Students present the results of their investigation in bioarchaeology

Students present the results of their bioarchaeological investigation of human remains.

We are currently conducting an in-depth bioarchaeological and palaeopathological (the study of health and disease) investigation of the 5th-7th Century Christian population housed at the Archaeology Museum of Seville.  This collection is the result of a 1985 salvage excavation in the sector of Las Huertas, near the town of La Roda de Andalucía.   Situated near a the ruins of a contemporaneous rural church, the 240 square meter site revealed 32 tombs which contained the remains of approximately 38 adults and two infants. The tombs consisted of three general ossuaries, 16 individual graves, five graves containing two individuals each, five graves containing three individuals each, two infants and two empty tombs. All the inhumations were in a supine position and oriented East-West, so that the deceased would be able to face the sunrise. With the exception of Tomb 9, no grave goods were found associated with this population, leaving questions about the race, age and sex of the individuals present.

 

Students apply forensic methods to identify minimum number of individuals.

Students apply forensic methods to identify minimum number of individuals.

Initial analysis of Tomb A has revealed the presence of at least two adult males. Elements used to determine sex included the nuchal crest, mental eminence, supra-orbital margin and mastoid process, and the greater sciatic notch, resulting in a score of 4-5 using the standards described by Buikstra and Ubelaker (1994). All bones present were completely fused. Wear on the second and third mandibular molars suggested an age of 25-35 years (Brothwell, 1981), whereas one of the parietal pairs revealed complete obliteration of the sagittal suture, suggesting an individual of 50+ years (Walker, 1988).

 

In addition, palaeopathological evidence for joint disease on the lumbar vertebra and right knee was also observed. The older cranium also contained evidence for non-specific infection, including osteolytic lesions near the sagittal suture. Further analysis of individual tombs should reveal more about the health, nutrition and cause of death of this rural population. We will continue our study and keep you posted of our finings over the next few months.

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