Sticks and Stones May Break Their Bones:
Trauma Patterns in Early Christian Cyprus

Human skeletal remains from four Early Christian ecclesiastical sites in Cyprus have been analyzed in an effort to discern the common burial customs, the demographic profiles (sex and age) of individuals from the site, along with pathological data such as the common diseases, and in particular, evidence for trauma from individuals dating to this time period on the island. There are few skeletal studies on Cypriot material from the Early Christian period.

The largest site under study, the Hill of Agios Georgios (St. George’s Hill), is an inland site, located on a rise adjacent to the Pedeios River outside the Venetian walled city of the capital, Nicosia. Four churches/basilicas and their associated cemeteries dating from around the 4th century A.D. to the post-medieval period have been excavated at the Hill of Agios Georgios where today a chapel dedicated to St. George the Healer is situated. To date, approximately 28 of the total 216 individuals from the site are recovered from Early Christian contexts.

The other, smaller church/basilica sites of Kalavasos-Kopetra (n=21), Alassa-Ayia Mavri (n=26), and Maroni-Petrera (n=6), are located near the south coast.

Different patterns have emerged between the smaller, coastal sites when compared to the larger, inland site of the Hill of Agios Georgios. The pattern is particularly evident when examining evidence for trauma such as fracture types and locations. There are more fractures, greater variability among fractures, and fractures among more males, including cranial fractures and hand trauma, and in a later period, even parry fractures that characterize individuals at the urban and inland site of the Hill of Agios Georgios when compared with individuals from the South Coast who are characterized by more severe trauma from falls that include multiple fractures. Reasons for the different patterns in this preliminary study will be discussed.

Co-sponsored by the Salem Society of the Archaeological Institute of America and the Willamette University Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology