Roman Egypt is the only part of the ancient world where documentary evidence for the age composition of the general population has survived. Pertinent information is provided by extant census returns from the first three centuries of Roman rule. Gathered every fourteen years, these documents list the members of individual households with their names, familial status, and ages. Knowledge of the age distribution enables us to track mortality rates and infer average life expectancy, which is a critical measure of overall well-being. This article discusses mortality patterns, causes of death, and disease and physical well-being.
The art of the catacombs was born in Rome between the second and third centuries and is manifested especially in the pictorial decorations of the cubicula and other hypogeal environments. The extremely simplified artistic typology echoes the Second Pompeian style through the use of red and green lines that run across the walls and the faces of the monuments. Initially this grid contained neutral figures selected from the pagan repertoire; later those images were replaced by Christian scenes inspired by biblical and salvific imagery. The art of the catacombs also includes funerary sculpture, particularly sarcophagi, and the so-called minor arts, such as gilded glass, ivory dolls, and mosaic tesserae. The catacombal decorations ended at the beginning of the fifth century, when funerary use ceased in these subterranean cemeteries.
Liv Nilsson Stutz and Sarah Tarlow
This chapter provides a brief overview of the emergence of children and childhood as a subject for archaeological investigation, before outlining archaeological evidence for medieval birth and childhood from settlement and cemetery excavations. Children’s burials provide information on the social persona and treatment of children at death, attitudes to the death of infants and older children, and their memorialization in the form of burial location, and above-ground monuments such as brasses. Skeletal material yields evidence of age at death, as well as information on health and life-course. Isotope and other scientific analyses of skeletal material is providing further information about childhoods, including diet and migration. Settlements are a fruitful source of information about geographies of medieval childhoods, children’s involvement in work and play, and the material culture of medieval childhood.
Sherry C. Fox and Paraskevi Tritsaroli
This chapter examines the contribution of the contextual study of human skeletal remains of Early Christian burials in the eastern Mediterranean. Bioarchaeological studies of sites in Greece, Cyprus, Asia Minor, and Palestine are presented to better understand the people and their burial practices from this region during a tumultuous period in the fourth through seventh centuries. The use of multiple lines of evidence such as funerary archaeology, taphonomy, and skeletal biology reveals the lifestyles and burial customs of the inhabitants from a selection of eastern Mediterranean sites. Despite regional variations, there is a great degree of uniformity in the burial customs across the areas under consideration. Finally, the populations of the eastern Mediterranean share similar demographic profiles and health outcomes. Future research will likely engage in scientific applications in archaeology that may address significant questions, such as reconstructing diet from stable isotope analyses and disease via ancient DNA analysis.
Vincenzo Fiocchi Nicolai
The Roman catacombs, dated to the early third century, are characterized by regular plans that made the best use of available space. In the late third and fourth centuries, the catacombs grew in number and extent through the establishment of new areas. Beginning in the fifth century, the Roman catacombs ceased to be the usual places of burial and become instead spaces dedicated to the cult of the martyrs. The catacombs of the Italian peninsula and the larger islands of the Mediterranean, Greece, and Roman Africa, dated usually between the fourth and fifth centuries, are fewer and smaller than those in Rome, but are distinct in their plans and adaptation to different environments.
Vicki Cummings, Magdalena S. Midgley†, and Chris Scarre
This contribution explores variations in the construction, form, use, and re-use of Neolithic chambered tombs in three key areas of northern and western Europe: (1) France and Iberia; (2) northern Germany, Holland, and southern Scandinavia; and (3) Britain and Ireland. The chapter outlines chronological patterns, and considers key themes such as the choice of materials for construction, locations chosen for construction, conditions of access to and decorations at the monuments, the deposition of human remains and other material at the tombs, and activities at the exterior of these monuments. The implications of similarities and differences between regions are examined, and potential areas for future research are discussed.
While reports of child sacrifice in the ancient Andes are often sensationalized to captivate popular audiences, the study of the practice provides archaeologists with an important means of investigating power and sociopolitical dynamics in antiquity. This chapter discusses the significance of the terms ‘child’ and ‘sacrifice’ in the Andes and examines the evidence of child sacrifice from ancient contexts in Andean regions of modern-day Peru and Bolivia. It considers data on sacrificial practices from dives sources, such as descriptions in ethnohistorical documents, representations in architectural design and portable art, and direct evidence found in the archaeological record. Finally, various approaches to the study of these sacrifices and possible avenues for future analyses are outlined.