Growing up in al-Andalus: an osteological analysis of non-adult skeletal material in Écija, Spain
Shupe, Catherine Anne
The Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula brought new religion, language, and economies to the region. The aim of this research is to detect how the non-adult skeleton reacts to religious change. Religious doctrines can dictate and individual’s life, from birth to death, and influence everyday choices such as diet and activities. Therefore, religious transitions can be expressed skeletally. While there have been several bioarchaeological studies on transitional periods or geographic differences, most have focused on agricultural shifts or rural versus urban settlements. There are few studies on cultural, specifically religious, transitions in non-adult skeletal samples. By using a biocultural approach and taking into consideration the historical context, environment, and religious doctrine, we can gain understanding of the local social environment. Non-adults were chosen due to their sensitivity to changes within a community. The main aim of this study was to perform an intra-site analysis between the early and late phases of the maqbara at the Plaza de España. The maqbara at the Plaza de España was used from the early 8th century to the 12th century and had clear stratigraphic phases of use, thus allowing an analysis between the early and late phases. An intra-site analysis was conducted as religious transitions do not happen quickly and there was subsequent increase in both rural and urban populations, along with economic and agricultural innovations. Thus, the lives of the individuals in the later phases, could have been significantly different to those in the earlier phases. In addition to the intra-site analysis, comparative medieval non-adult Spanish samples were used when available. The results of this study suggest that there was not a significant difference in demography or pathology between the early and late phases of the maqbara. The individuals in the late phase did exhibit slight growth stunting, however due to the minimal nature and small sample size, no definitive conclusion was made. The most prevalent pathology was cribra orbitalia, however, there was not a statistically significant difference between the Early and Late phases. While indicators of metabolic disease were present, they were minimal. Dental disease, especially caries, were minimal and similar to prevalence rates from other medieval Spanish samples. These results suggest that the non-adults in the sample were not negatively impacted by the changes in their environments. While al-Andalus experienced population growth over the centuries, Écija’s location, a suburb of Córdoba, could have potentially buffered them from the consequences of urban life.