Erica Williams 1 ; Jaime Ullinger, MA 2 ; Dennis Van Gerven, Ph.D. 3; Susan Guise Sheridan, Ph.D. 1. 1 Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame; 2 Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University; 3 Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado.
Erica Williams1; Jaime Ullinger, MA2; Dennis Van Gerven, Ph.D.3; Susan Guise Sheridan, Ph.D.1
1Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame; 2Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University; 3Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado
Table 4. Penrose size/shape distance measures using only premolar & molar (mandibular and maxillary) values
The odontometric analyses alone are not conclusive,
indicating only that the monks are not genetically distinct
from Western European and Near Eastern groups. Taken
with the other nonmetric and isotopic studies, though, they
contribute to a larger picture of the St. Stephen's community as
comprised primarily of a local population with some amount of
immigration that cannot be quantified. Future directions include
searches for other Byzantine-era collections for comparison, as well
as isolation of individuals from the St. Stephen's collection for direct comparison to individuals from other communities in order to perform more rigorous statistical tests.
Constantine’s declaration of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in A.D. 313 resulted in the building of many ecclesiastical structures in and around Jerusalem. This expansion led to the construction of more and better roads, as well as increased trade (to which Jerusalem’s location along major trade routes from Europe to Northern Africa also contributed). “As the news of Constantine’s works in the holy places began to spread, the flow of pilgrims increased” (Wilkinson 1976:84). Western sources such as Egeria and Jerome, writing during this period, were struck by the number of pilgrims from the east. Jerome also records origins of travelers from as far away as India, Persia, and Ethiopia (Wilkinson 1999, 2002).
Our study seeks to estimate the impact of these pilgrims on the biological makeup of the Byzantine monastic community. Gene frequencies are difficult to study directly in archaeological collections; therefore physical traits are often used to assess biological relationships and microevolutionary trends (Scott and Turner 1988). This is based on the observation that phenetic distances correspond to genetic variation (Hillson 1996, Stojanowski 2005). Biological traits, such as tooth crown size, can be useful indicators of genetic distances between populations if a significant component of the trait is genetic (Scott & Turner 1988).
Nearly 65% of adult tooth size is under genetic control (Townsend and Brown 1978). Most studies measure the largest dimensions of the tooth crown according to the technique developed by Moorrees (1957). The central incisor (I1), first premolar (P1) and first molar (M1) are the most genetically stable teeth, and are often referred to as the anchor, or polar, teeth. This is slightly varied in the mandible, where the lateral incisor (I2) tends to be more stable than the central (Alvesalo and Tigerstedt 1974, Kieser 1990, Hillson 1996). Due to their higher rates of heritability, these polar teeth are the most useful for determining biological distance.
Statement of Purpose: Historical accounts indicate that pilgrimage to Byzantine Jerusalem (5th-7th century CE) was a major social phenomenon; less clear is the number of individuals that settled in monasteries upon arrival in the “Holy Land.” The purpose of this study was to study the biological homogeneity of the monks of St. Stephen’s using odontometrics. Dental crown sizes of the anchor teeth (I1, C, P1, and M1 in the maxilla and I2, C, P1, and M1 in the mandible) were analyzed for within- and between-group variation. Comparative collection from the surrounding region, and from locations where pilgrims purportedly originated were used to determine genetic distance. These data were combined with the analysis of dental non-metric traits (Ullinger 2002), cranial and vertebral non-metric traits (Guappone et al. 2006), as well as strontium isotope profiles (Cooper et al. 2006) to determine the origins of the monks of St. Stephens.
Byzantine St. Stephen’s Project
Laboratory for Biocultural Studies
University of Notre Dame
Department of Anthropology
Table 1. Descriptive statistics for comparative collections by tooth type
Table 5. Penrose size/shape distances between Byzantine St. Stephen’s and 2 outliers
showing significant differences in mandibular P1 (t=3.10, p=0.002) and maxillary P1 (t=3.20, p=0.001) in the Meroitic Nubians, mandibular P1 (t=4.58, p=1.4E-5), M1 (t=2.59, p=0.006) and maxillary P1 (t=2.67, p=0.005) in the X-group Nubians, and mandibular C (t=1.89, p=0.034), P1 (t=2.24, p=0.015), M1 (t=2.32, p=0.012) and maxillary I1 (t=2.29, p=0.014) and P1 (t=2.67, p=0.005). Because these three Nubian groups are considered biologically continuous (Calcagno 1986), these statistics indicate that north Africans were not living at St. Stephen's in significant numbers.
Table 6. Penrose size/shape distances between Byzantine St. Stephen’s and contemporary and African sites
A few of the European collections are biologically similar to St. Stephen's. The AD second century Roman remains are especially similar, both in Penrose statistics (C2H =0.038) and in the lack of significant difference in any of the polar teeth (Table 6). Italian collections from Campovalano (6th-4th cent. BC Italy) and Lucus Feroniae, (AD 2nd century near Rome), also have small biodistance measures (C2H =0.119 and C2H =0.128, respectively). These similarities may indicate that some of the inhabitants of St. Stephen's originated in Europe.
The similarity between the monks and other Near Eastern groups (discussed below) suggests that the reason for similarity between St. Stephen’s and certain European groups is not because the monks are wholly a European immigrant population. Manzi et al. (1997) suggest that there was an influx of agriculturalists from the Southern Levant into Italy during the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. Indeed, movements into and out of Europe and the Near East are ancient and plentiful, and have most certainly left long-term biological impacts.
The St. Stephen’s sample consisted of over 1,500 adult teeth. Those with obvious dental abnormalities, excessive occlusal or interproximal wear, dental caries, broken cusps, partial eruption, or impaction were excluded from study, since these characteristics interfere with measurement. Exceptions to this included teeth with cupped wear that did not obstruct the dimensions measured. Mesiodistal and buccolingual diameters (Figure 1) were measured with a needle-pointed calipers (accurate to .01 mm). Measurements were taken in two separate blind runs to ensure precision.
The mesiodistal diameter was taken at the greatest dimension of the crown parallel to the occlusal and labial surfaces
(Moorrees and Reed 1964). The buccolingual measurements of the premolars and molars were taken at the greatest
distance between the labial and lingual surfaces of the tooth in a plane perpendicular to the mesiodistal dimension. Because
the flare of the tooth (where the greatest distance could be measured) occurs lower on the buccal and lingual surfaces
than on the mesial and distal surfaces, fewer teeth were excluded from buccolingual measurement by occlusal wear.
Table 7. Penrose size/shape distances between Byzantine St. Stephen’s and other Near Eastern collections
Table 2. Descriptive statistics for the Byzantine St. Stephen’s collection
Matched pairs Student’s t-test was used to compare right and left teeth, and coefficients of variation were
calculated within each tooth type to test for homogeneity. Numerous collections were compared to St.
Stephen’s by tooth type using ANOVA, and Penrose’s size and shape measure was used to establish the
distance among collections.
Like those from Western Europe, Near Eastern collections show high levels of similarity to Byzantine St. Stephen's. Collections from Tel Kabri (C2H =0.139), Jebel Qa’Aqir (C2H =0.082), and Dothan (C2H =0.111) show the closest relationships to St. Stephen’s when all eight teeth are used for comparison (Table 7). Additionally, there are no significant differences in polar tooth size in the Jebel Qa’Aqir group, and significant differences in only two of the polar teeth in both Tel Kabri (mandibular M1, t=2.67, p=0.005 and maxillary I1, t=2.48, p=0.009) and Dothan (mandibular M1, t=2.81, p=0.003 and maxillary M1, t=2.08, p=0.021). Only collections from Sasa (C2H =0.509) and Qumran (C2H =0.499) show significant biodistance from St.
Table 8. Penrose size/shape distances between Byzantine St. Stephen’s and other Near Eastern collections using only premolar & molar (mandibular & maxillary) values
Historical records describe pilgrims traveling to and often
settling in Jerusalem from Western Europe, Mesopotamia, and
Persia, as well as India and North Africa. Student’s t-test
(one-tailed, unequal variance) was used to analyze
differences between the teeth of St. Stephen’s versus
Italy, Pakistan, North Africa, and the Southern
Levant. Collections from North America and
Southeast Asia were also included as
genetically distinct groups. The Levantine
assemblages included individuals from
the tombs of Tell Dothan (West Bank)
and Qumran (Dead Sea region).
Only comparative collections
from 6000 BC and later were
selected to ensure that
observed differences in
tooth size were due
primarily to genetic factors rather
related dental reduction.
Table 3. Statistical comparison of St. Stephen’s to comparative collections
Stephen's. Both are also genetically distant from the other Near Eastern groups; for Qumran, this may be due to the small sample size.
When only the mandibular and maxillary premolars and molars are compared using the Penrose measure, again Tel Kabri (C2H =0.110) and Jebel Qa’Aqir (C2H =0.066) exhibit close relationships (Table 8). The collection from Bronze Age Jericho (C2H =0.049), also shows similarity to St. Stephen’s, corroborated by the absence of any significant difference in polar tooth size.
These results, combined with the comparisons using all teeth suggest that the majority of individuals from St. Stephen's probably originated from the local area. These findings are also supported by dental non-metric traits, which also suggested that the monastery could not be distinguished from Near Eastern and European groups (Ullinger, 2002). It is increasingly clear that very few immigrants from Africa or East Asia were staying long enough at the monastery to be buried there, if they were arriving at all. Some historical sources support this. Binns (1994) states that the majority of monks in Byzantine monasteries came from areas such as Asia Minor. Further directions may include comparison to more groups from Asia Minor and areas north and east of Jerusalem; however, the lack of odontometric data from these areas makes such comparison difficult.
In addition to the study of dental nonmetrics, other studies of cranial and vertebral nonmetrics as well as stable strontium ratios on the St. Stephen's collection have also suggested that the individuals originated in the Near East (Guappone et al. 2006, Cooper et al. 2006). While this seems to contradict pilgrimage accounts, scholars also state that that monastic communities were comprised not only of monks but also indigenous workers (Wilkinson 1976, Hunt 1982, Binns 1994). This may account for the observed similarities to near eastern groups. However, the homogeneity of the group also indicates that it is not comprised of distinct groups of foreign monks and indigenous workers, suggesting that the majority of the monks themselves were from the local area.
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Asymmetry : Student’s t-test indicated no significant side variation for the mesiodistal or buccolingual measurements. Due to the nature of commingled remains from the St. Stephen's collection, the left side is used in all subsequent analyses in order to avoid the duplication of individuals.
Exclusion of mesiodistal measurements: While teeth with significant interproximal wear were excluded from this study, few posterior teeth remain completely unaffected, making the mesiodistal measurement less reliable (Coppa et al 1998, Kieser 1990). Additionally, mesiodistal measurements can be inaccurate when taken on jawed teeth. Therefore, only buccolingual (BL) measurements are analyzed. Table 1 illustrates the BL measures for mandibular and maxillary anchor teeth from numerous comparative collections and Byzantine St. Stephens.
Homogeneity: Coefficient of variation (CV) values between 4 and 10 percent indicate homogeneity (Thomas 1986). All left polar tooth buccolingual measurements in the St. Stephen’s collection fall within this range (Table 2). This indicates that the St. Stephen’s collection is composed primarily of people from a single region, rather than groups from varied areas.
Comparative study: Each group was compared to the St. Stephen’s collection (Table 3). Statistically significant differences (p≤0.05) are indicated in bold. The Penrose size/shape measure (C2H)was used to analyze the relative distances between St. Stephen's and other collections (Table 4). As expected, populations chosen as outliers (native Jomon from Japan & Guale Indians from North America) do exhibit high Penrose values (C2H = 0.730 and 1.953) when compared to the Byzantine monks. These collections also show significant difference in 6 of the 8 polar teeth (mandibular PI, M1 and all maxillary polar teeth, Table 3).
Although textual records indicate that pilgrims traveled from northern Africa, the distance statistics from the X-group Nubians do not support this (C2H =0.315, Table 6). Nubians, in fact, are more biologically distant during and after the Byzantine period: Meroitic Nubians (C2H =0.257) are more closely related than X-group Nubians (C2H =0.315), which in turn are more closely related than Christian-era Nubians (C2H =0.523). Polar tooth comparisons corroborate these increasing distances,
Figure 1. Dental crown