Bioarchaeology and the emergence of Islam at Écija - Asociación Profesional de Bioarqueologia

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Desde la APB queremos informaros, y al mismo tiempo agradecer tanto a Sarah Inskip (Universidad de Southampton y Leiden) como a Gina Carroll y Andrea Waters-Rist (Universidad de Leiden), su colaboración e interés demostrado en el estudio de la Colección antropológica de "El Salón" (Écija). Os dejamos dos artículos relacionados con la misma colección y que muestran un resumen de su trabajo.


Sarah Inskip (University of Southampton and University of Leiden, The Netherlands)

My research aims to connect the physical body with the social body. As people carry out their daily lives they recreate their identities and cosmologies. Therefore by assessing changes in physical activity patterns, we can assess changes to society. My research aimed to see if there were large changes in activity patterns in Southern Iberia with the emergence of Islam, and hence whether Islamic ideology significantly changed social organisation. In order to do this I needed to compare skeletal evidence of activity from before Islam to skeletal evidence of activity in an Islamic group. As part of this research I assess a number of activity related skeletal modifications including osteoarthritis, entheseal changes, bone geometry and non-metric traits shown to be related to activity. I compared data obtained from Coracho, Lucena to Écija.

For all activity markers, both sites displayed a significant degree of sexual dimorphism however it was far more pronounced in the Islamic individuals, with the exception of osteoarthritis. This is a pattern also identified by other researchers in other parts of Islamic Iberia. This finding appeared show that religious ideology surrounding the roles of men and women in Islam may have had more impact on the division of labour in Islamic society than in the pre-Islamic material.

When comparing the sexes separately, there were far more differences between males than females. In particular the higher sexual dimorphism in osteoarthritis at Coracho was caused by a very high percentage of OA in the pre-Islamic males. In fact, Islamic individuals were more gracile than the pre-Islamic individuals. This potentially caused by two factors, either lifestyle and loading was significantly different between the two sites, or that religious affiliation may have dictated the activities that were undertaken by each group. This notion is supported by economic and historic sources. However to be sure of this it is imperative that that future research compares Écija to contemporaneous Christian material. Furthermore it is important to see if Écija is representative of other regional Islamic groups. Future research now aims to do this and also to include information from burial rites.




Gina Carroll, Sarah Inskip and Andrea Waters-Rist (University of Leiden, the Netherlands).

A number of clinicians working with animal models have demonstrated that some diseases can significantly alter isotope fractionation within an organism. However at present there is little research on how pathological processes might specifically affect humans, and consequently whether it could potentially interfere with archaeological research on migration and diet. This project will be one of the first to test whether archaeological individuals with skeletal markers of disease do appear isotopically different to those that do not.

For this project we have chosen to focus on anaemias as clinical research on mice have demonstrated that individuals with severe anaemia, particularly genetic anaemias, can fractionate oxygen and nitrogen differently to ‘normal’ individuals. As the Écija material contains a number of individuals with severe signs of anaemia, and could potentially contain individuals with thalassaemia and sickle cell anemia, we aim to test if individuals with macroscopic lesions have different isotopic ratios to those that do not. At present we are testing oxygen and nitrogen isotopes for intra- and inter individual variation while using strontium and carbon to assess and control for the for the impact of any migrations or dietary difference. As of Jan 2015, all isotope data was collected. Preliminary results suggest a significant intra-individual variation in N isotope in individuals with signs of anaemia.  


Catherine Shupe is doing her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. She is focusing on the subadults from the collection and looking at changes in health from the early to the late Islamic period. She is primarily looking at non-specific stress


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