Early Christian Pilgrimage to a Byzantine Monastery in Jerusalem—A Dental Perspective

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Jaime M. Ullinger


The presence of 30 morphological traits was scored on over 1,500 teeth from a bone repository located at St. Stephen’s, an urban Byzantine monastery in Jerusalem. The frequencies of dental traits found in the sample were compared with frequencies of the same traits in seven other groups (compiled from published data) in order to determine possible biological affinities of the monks. The Mean Measure of Divergence (MMD) statistic was used to statistically analyze the phenetic/genetic similarity among the groups. The genetic background of this group of monks is interesting because historical sources suggest that many foreigners may have been present in monasteries during this time period as pilgrims. Some argue that their presence is exaggerated, however, and that the majority of monks were from the surrounding region. The results suggest that many of the monks were most likely from the region, but that the presence of foreigners (particularly European foreigners) cannot be ruled out using dental evidence.