An Archaeological Study of the Ancient Phaleron Cemetery near Athens Greece

Project: Research project

Project Details


An Archaeological Study of the Ancient Phaleron Cemetery near Athens Greece An Archaeological Study of the Ancient Phaleron Cemetery near Athens, Greece 1 UNWRITTEN HISTORIES: PEOPLE OF THE PHALERON PORT (ANCIENT ATHENS) 4. NARRATIVE Substance and context Introduction For most of the Classical era (ca. 480-320 BC), Athens was by far the largest, wealthiest, and most influential city-state (polis) in the Greek world, and we know a great deal about how life there was organized and experienced. We know far less about the formation of this polis during the Archaic era (ca. 700-480 BC), when Athens evolved from a union of small villages into a hegemonic regional "superpower". It is extremely fortunate that the Phaleron cemetery was in use throughout the period of this formation process. By examining the cemetery's anomalously large and diverse skeletal assemblage, the project will generate osteological, paleodemographic, paleopathological, biochemical, and genetic data that can add to our knowledge of this crucial and complex process in two novel and unprecedented ways. First, these data will yield information that more traditional archaeological and textual evidence simply cannot provide, for example demographic characteristics, such as age and gender distributions, as well as health status, causes of death, and geographical origins. Second, while studies of other, previously excavated Greek cemeteries (e.g., Kerameikos) can tell us a great deal about the life experiences of elites, who tend to be over-represented at those sites, our project will be the first to analyze a large, predominantly non-elite cemetery assemblage. In particular, through paleodemographic, paleogenetic, and paleomobility analyses, we can reconstruct the different social and biological groups buried at the Phaleron site, thereby contributing to ongoing debates regarding the impact of socioeconomic and other inequalities on access to and use of cemeteries in the Archaic era. 2 Background Archaic Athens was marked by significant inequalities of wealth and status. Life in the early polis was effectively dominated by a small minority of extremely wealthy, landowning families. According to sources for the early sixth century, Athenians were then categorized in one of four distinct wealth divisions: the super-wealthy (pentakosiomedimnoi), who owned land sufficient to yield at least 500 bushels of grain a year; the slightly less wealthy "horsemen" (hippeis); the moderately prosperous "yoke-men" (zeugitai); and everyone else, namely the poor majority, known as the laborers (thetes) (for Archaic Athens, Camp, 2001; Hall, 2006; Osborne, 1996; Shapiro, 2007; Snodgrass, 1980). The sources for this early time also tell us that a leader called Solon (ca. 594 BC) outlawed the practice of debt bondage among Athenians, whereby dependent, tenant farmers forfeited their personal freedom if they were unable to meet certain quotas of produce stipulated by the landowner. And it is generally assumed today that this measure helped to stimulate the initial demand for the labor of "outsiders" in Attica, in particular for chattel slaves, most of whom were imported from non-Greek regions like Thrace, Scythia, and Anatolia. Slaves in Attica performed all manner of work for more prosperous families, from manufacturing and mining to farming and household maintenance. And given that these same prosperous families were expected to use their personal, slave-generated resources to provide many essential services to the polis, from funding festival spectacles and warships to furnishing Athens with most if not all of its political leaders, diplomats, generals, priests and priestesses, playwrights, and prosecutors, one can fairly say that the contributions made by slaves to Athenian social being as a whole were quite literally vital. Somewhat later on, early in the classical era, the population in Attica was further swollen by the arrival of growing numbers of resident aliens or "metics" 3 (metoikoi), who came from elsewhere in Greece and adjacent non-Greek regions. Since metics were not members of the Athenian social body, they had to be formally sponsored by a fullblooded Athenian and could not purchase land in Attica. Yet they were also expected to contribute to the general well-being of the polis by paying a monthly tax, taking part in certain rituals, and serving in the army or navy when required (Martin, 2013). By the middle of the Classical era, there were three distinct categories of persons resident in Attica, the Athenians, their slaves, and the metics (for Classical Athens, Boegehold and Scafuro, 1994; Camp, 2001; Cohen, 1993, 2000; Davies, 1981; Ober, 2008). We might estimate that the total population by the end of the 5th century BC was somewhere around 300,000. Metics perhaps numbered only around 20,000, while slaves comprised somewhere between one third and one quarter of the total. Hence, as far as we can tell, the vast majority of the people in Athens will have been non-elites, while over half of all free, native-born Athenians were probably considered poor, living at or not far above subsistence level in self-supporting patrilineal households. Their net contribution to social being in the polis was self-evidently significant, given that they not only provided daily sustenance of all kinds for thousands of families, but were also actively involved in agriculture, commercial transactions, processes of law and order, communal decision-making, ritual engagements with divinity, and military engagements on both land and sea. Yet non-elites of all kinds usually go unnoticed in Greek historical sources and rarely survive in the bioarchaeological record. Due to the lack of lavish monuments, cemetery markers, and textual evidence, poorer members of poleis in Athens and elsewhere in Greece are commonly underrepresented in standard reconstructions of the past, despite their crucial contributions to the life of ancient communities. And of course the same is even more true for 4 more marginal individuals, such as slaves, captives, outcasts, outlaws, as well as for the very young (i.e., stillborn infants), who too often remain historically and bioarchaeologically invisible. As a result, our conventional accounts of the Greek past tend to focus almost exclusively on the prosperous minority, largely ignoring the less wealthy, the unfree, and other outsiders, and are thus biased. This study aims to recuperate as much as possible about these unknown, often marginalized populations. Study site This project focuses upon the cemetery of Phaleron located on the northwestern coast of Attica, about 6 km south of the Acropolis, at the area of the Phaleron Bay, which served as the main port of ancient Athens before Piraeus was established (Fig. 1). The Phaleron cemetery consists of hundreds of burials and it is the largest funerary site ever recovered in Attica using modern excavation techniques and detailed excavation records (Fig. 2). On the basis of temporally sensitive artifacts, the Phaleron cemetery was used from the late 8th to the early 5th century BC (ca. 750-480 BC), extending from the very beginnings of Athens formation as a unitary polis to the devastating assault on Attica and neighboring poleis by the Persians in 480 BC. This period was a time of momentous societal shifts and developments, witnessing the establishment and subsequent reform of the first governmental institutions, early codifications of formal laws, the laying out of the first consecrated sanctuaries for the major gods of Attica, the introduction of many significant festivals and other ritual events, the construction of the first temples and other landmark monuments, and intermittent feuding among the wealthiest elite families, such as the Peisistratid "tyrants" and the Alcmeonids. By the time that our cemetery fell 5 out of use, the Athenians had recently committed themselves to a new politeia or "way of life," one they called demokratia (Anderson, 2005; Hall, 2006). The Phaleron cemetery shows great variation in burial practices. The Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project focuses upon the materials excavated between 2012-2013 with a total of 1058 burials, for which the excavation records are complete (Figs. 3, 4). Most burials (54%) were recovered from shallow pits within the soft, sandy soil. Pit burials consist mainly of adults, buried in a supine, extended position (Fig. 5). The second largest category (33%), are burials of infants and young children within large jars (Fig. 6), whereas occasionally older children and adolescents are found intermixed with adult burials. Moreover, about 8% of the burials consist of primary cremations, wherein the burning and the successive burial of the body took place in the same location. Other types of burials include ceramic urns (1%) and simple graves lined with vertical slabs (1%). The unique case of a skeleton buried within a wooden boat used as a coffin that was preserved in its entirety illustrates the great preservation conditions at the site and underline interment diversity (Fig. 7). Finally, animal burials (1%) were also recovered dispersed among the human burials, consisting of horses and canids. Horses were expensive possessions, markers of the upper class, a means of wealth display, and a military necessity for the cavalry force (Hornblower, 2002:140-141). One of the many strengths of the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project consists of the large number of deviant burials (7%) that show evidence for captivity, violent death, and/or execution. These include two mass burials, one consisting of 12 individuals and the other of 4 individuals, wherein the skeletons were found with the hands tied behind their backs (Fig. 8). Moreover, there are skeletons that preserve iron handcuffs in situ, usually supine and extended with their hands tied on top of the lower thorax and the pelvic area (Fig. 9). Finally, there are numerous 6 cases of skeletons buried face down, in a prone position (Fig. 10). Prone burials are scarce in the Greek world and are generally considered an indication of unusual circumstances of death or punishment. In addition, the Phaleron prone burials often preserve the arms and/or legs tightly flexed and in unnatural positions, suggesting tight bondage such as hog-tied. The Phaleron cemetery in perspective The Phaleron cemetery, indeed, constitutes a rare phenomenon in the archaeological record. The lack of elaborate burials, funerary monuments, inscriptions, and intra-cemetery organization points to the presence of lower status individuals, largely invisible in the historical and archaeological records. Previously excavated Archaic and Classical Attic cemeteries excavated represent higher socioeconomic classes and the Athenian aristocracy, as evidenced by elaborate funerary monuments and textual sources (e.g., Kerameikos, Ancient Agora). The stages of burial and funerary treatment in Ancient Athens are well known through a variety of sources (texts, inscriptions, sculptures, and vase painting) (Kurtz and Boardman, 1971). Thus, the simple, generally non-furnished, pit burials at Phaleron allow us to go beyond the elites and thereby address issues relating to the commoners who usually go unnoticed. This variation permits us to re-open archaeological and historic debates regarding the access to and use of cemeteries in relation to the political and economic status of the buried dead, such as free citizens, foreigners, and slaves (e.g., Morris, 1987), and thus interpret broader segments of the ancient societies. The coastal location of the cemetery and the function of Phaleron as the port of the ancient city of Athens might in fact reflect a port community of diverse backgrounds and origins, possibly incorporating foreigners, sailors, and traders. The number and variation of deviant burials with evidence for violent deaths raise the question of Phaleron cemetery being used also 7 for executed captives, slaves, or even pirates in other words as a potters field for the unwanted of the ancient city. Death sentences seem to have been relatively frequent in ancient Greece, used for a wide range of offences, including sacrilege and treason (e.g., Allen, 2000; Debrunner, 1996; Gernet, 1981; Todd, 2000). However, the relevant sources are brief and scarce. The main ways of execution known to us are: drinking of poison (Socrates being the most famous victim), an early form of crucifixion termed apotympanismos, and pushing the condemned men to a ravine or from a steep cliff (Keramopoullos, 1923; Gernet, 1981; Todd, 2000). Apotympanismos, in particular, was a special form of execution, given that it served as an exemplary, public punishment wherein the condemned were tied by shackles onto a tall and wide wooden plank erected on top of hills or at crossroads to be visible from a distance and widely known to the people passing by (Pelekides, 1916; Keramopoullos, 1923; Todd, 2000). Whether or not executed men and criminals were allowed to receive a proper burial depended on the nature of the crime and other circumstances (see Hager, 1879). In some cases, the corpses were returned to the relatives to be properly buried after execution. There are references, however, for criminals guilty of treason, who were only allowed to receive burial outside of the boundaries of the city of Athens and/or Attica (Debrunner, 1996; Hager, 1879). Burials of social outcasts, prisoners, and slaves are rare in Greek archaeological sites and require special attention (e.g., Faklaris, 1986; Little and Papadopoulos, 1998; Logothetis, 2014; Mpessios and Triantaphyllou, 2000). Thus, the groups of deviant burials open-up further interpretations for the Phaleron cemetery as a burial ground for the unwanted and/or stigmatized. Furthermore, given the large number of burials of young juveniles, so commonly underrepresented in ancient cemeteries, the Phaleron cemetery constitutes a comprehensive skeletal sample that allows us to investigate infancy and childhood in antiquity. Due to the 8 differential representation of young juveniles in formal cemeteries, the interpretation of these juvenile deaths and their funerary contexts, particularly for neonates and infants, in Greek antiquity remains a contested issue (e.g., Garland, 1985; Lagia, 2007; Liston and Papadopoulos, 2004; Morris, 1987). In fact, there seem to have been regional and chronological variations in the burial treatment of young juveniles, depending on concepts of personhood and social age. Hence, the large number of infant and child burials at Phaleron cemetery allows us to examine agerelated social dimensions of the ancient society and can add greatly to the bioarchaeological investigation and theorization of children in the past. Research questions and objectives The research objectives of this project are multifaceted. The size, temporal scope, location, and nature of the mortuary assemblage of Phaleron cemetery are in a unique position to revive antiquity and elucidate the early period of Athens history. The analysis of the people buried in Phaleron can reveal aspects of ancient lives previously unknown in comparison with the ancient sources. By applying a contextualized, problem-oriented approach that combines anthropology and the study of the ancient world and by integrating bioarchaeological, biochemical, and historical data this project will examine the following research questions: i. The identity of the people of Phaleron. The nature of the cemetery showing variation in burial practices, absence of funerary monuments and lavish burials, and lack of organization, suggests the presence of non-elite groups and raises the hypothesis that Phaleron represents a socially, politically, and ethnically diverse burial population. By combining the bioarchaeological data with the detailed excavation records, we will reconstruct the burial processes of the different skeletal groups. We will examine the ethnic 9 origins of the buried individuals, and we will investigate the presence of foreigners through biochemical analysis. We will further reconstruct the dietary patterns of the skeletal population using isotopic analysis in order to identify possible dietary differences associated with the low socioeconomic status. The bioarchaeological results will be compared with material culture data and information from the historical sources (primary and secondary) in order to decipher the social, political, and economic role of the Phaleron cemetery groups in ancient Athens. The aim of this inquiry is to elucidate the lives and the mortuary remains of commoners, foreigners, and possibly slaves in antiquity contrasted with the funerary treatment of the elites. ii. Insiders and outsiders: We are especially interested in the group of deviant burials, which likely includes executed criminals and/or war captives and/or slaves. The project's targeted, inter-disciplinary study of these unconventional burials can thus help to refine and enrich current thinking on matters like the administration of laws and punishments in Archaic Athens, the conduct of warfare beyond and perhaps within the bounds of the polis, and the introduction of chattel slavery, all of which continue to be subjects of intense scholarly debate. And ultimately, this extraordinary deviant assemblage can provide information of an entirely new kind on one of the most basic questions of all, namely: How precisely did this emergent community distinguish itself from "outsiders". For through its treatment of the mortuary remains of these "others," this polity necessarily tells us something about how it defined and objectified a communal "self". We will examine the ethnic origins, diet, genetic make-up, health status, chronological date, and burial treatment of the deviant groups. We will then compare the biological, ethnic, genetic, dietary, forensic, temporal, and mortuary profiles of the deviant burials to those of the non-deviant burials in order to 10 obtain a holistic interpretation of the Phaleron cemetery. We will also use the ancient sources to contextualize the social, political, and judicial phenomena of the period under study, including topics of litigation, prosecution, and persecution. iii. The experience of childhood in Greek antiquity. Focusing on the numerous burials of infants and young children, we will address bioculturally sensitive aspects of the construction of identity and the experience of childhood in antiquity, including age stages, health, and diet. This approach will further allow us to reconstruct the funerary treatment of the young and more nuanced topics, such as the perceptions and attitudes towards juvenile death, loss, and compassion in antiquity. The bioarchaeological evidence will be compared with the historical information from written sources on the social developments that accompanied different chronological ages, including aspects of personhood and dietary thresholds (e.g., weaning ages), in order to provide a holistic understanding of childhood in the ancient Greek world. iv. Diet, health, and epidemics. The location of Phaleron and its function as the port of the city of Athens is suggestive of a community open to the exchange of people, goods, but also diseases. Thus, we can gain direct insight into the health status of coastal groups and investigate the movement and load of pathogens in early cities. The large number of infant burials intermixed with adult burials showing evidence for a violent death, may further indicate an unusual cause of death, such as an epidemic, nutritional deficiency, or abuse. This is further supported by the presence of pot burials including grave goods that are contrasted with the generally poor, unfurnished burials of the adults. We will conduct analysis of ancient pathogen DNA to test for the presence of infectious diseases in the 11 buried population. The DNA results will be compared to paleopathological (macroscopic) observations on the skeletons and to the results of the dietary reconstruction. v. The metaphysics of polis community. More generally, through sustained, humanistic and scientific study of the skeletal remains, grave goods, different modes of burial, and the site and location of the cemetery as whole, the project hopes to yield some new perspectives on larger matters concerning the metaphysical environment in archaic Athens. For example, given that the disposal of the dead necessarily involved ritual actions, what can the site tell us about ongoing relations between humans and superhuman or divine agencies in archaic Athens? Given that mortality and bloodshed was anathema to all Greek gods, what can the cemetery tell us about how prevailing distinctions were drawn between purified, consecrated spaces and non-consecrated spaces? Given the unconventional treatment of many of its occupants, what can the cemetery tell us about archaic Athenian notions of personhood and subjectivity? Who exactly qualified as a person and a subject in this particular lifeworld? And what was the dominant mode of sociality in this particular time and place? What forms of human communion and belonging did an archaic Greek polis presuppose? History of the project and its productivity The location of the cemetery at the Delta of Phaleron and its archaeological significance were known since the early 1900s when the Greek Archaeological Service discovered and excavated a total of about 150 graves (Kourouniotis, 1911; Pelekidis, 1916). Among the individual graves, a mass burial of seventeen male skeletons laid side-by-side preserving iron collars was recovered, known ever since as The Captives of Phaleron (Pelekidis, 1916; 12 Keramopoullos, 1923). A century later, the construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) including new facilities for the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, and the 210,000 m2 Stavros Niarchos Park, brought to light the extensive Phaleron cemetery ( In order for the SNFCC to be completed, large-scale excavations took place between 2012 and 2016 by the Archaeological Service of Western Attica, Piraeus, and the Islands (Greek Ministry of Culture) under the direction of Dr. Stella Chrysoulaki, funded by SNFCC. In 2015, an international collaborative project was established for the contextualized bioarchaeological analysis and interpretation of the Phaleron cemetery and a specialized team of bioarchaeologists, forensic anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians were assembled for this purpose. The Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project is taking place at the Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory for Archaeological Science of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), which can provide the necessary infrastructure, including storage and working space, sample preparation laboratories with fume hoods, and equipment such as microscopes, 3D laser scanners, and an X-ray facility. Biochemical analyses will take place in collaborating institutions: radiocarbon analysis for dating at the National Science Foundation - Arizona AMS Laboratory at University of Arizona, isotopic analysis for diet and migration at the Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory at Arizona State University, and ancient DNA analysis at the Max Planck Institute for Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. All the necessary permits for this project have been obtained, so there are no obstacles for completion. Here follows a description of the tasks in progress and/or completed during the first year of the project (2016-2017). In the summer of 2016 (June July), the archaeological human skeletal remains from Phaleron excavated between 2012-2013 were transferred at the Wiener 13 Laboratory where they were inventoried. The conservation of the Phaleron human remains by professional conservators began in July of 2016, under the supervision of Dr. Prevedorou. In addition, undergraduate student apprentices from Departments of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Arts are being trained in conservation of osteological material while working on the Phaleron remains under supervision. By the end of July 2017, the conservation of the infant remains from the jar burials will be completed and conservation of the other types of burials will be ongoing. In the fall of 2016, the projects website was launched and is currently under construction ( The projects website will be updated regularly and will contain information regarding the projects progress and preliminary results. In the spring of 2017, the design of the digital database for the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project will begin. The database will be available through the projects website and will serve as the repository of data collected. The cemetery and the analysis of the burials are often featured in the press and have thus received a lot of publicity, however, there are no scholarly publications on the Phaleron cemetery project to date. The first presentation of the project at an international conference will take place in March of 2017 at the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting by Prevedorou and Buikstra. The estimated date of completion for the Bioarchaeological Project of Phaleron is August 2020. In this application, we ask for funding for a three-year project (2017-2020) for the in-depth study, interpretation, and publication of the human burials of the Phaleron cemetery. If awarded, the NEH Collaborative Research Grant will support: a) curation, photographic documentation, osteological data collection for paleodemographic and paleopathological reconstruction, sampling for analytical methodologies (radiocarbon, DNA, isotopic analyses) of the human 14 skeletal remains, and Information Technology (IT) support (1st year of funding), b) the postdoctoral position of the project Co-Director (Prevedorou) through Arizona State University (2nd and 3rd year of funding), c) research and travel expenses for the projects Director (Buikstra), Co-Director (Prevedorou), the projects historian (Anderson), and the projects forensic specialist (Steadman) as it aims to support the collaboration between the four for the contextualization of the site, and e) the interpretation and publication of the human remains buried in the cemetery of Phaleron. For complementary sources see Statement of History of Grants. Collaborators For the purpose of this project, an international team including a variety of specialists was assembled. Jane Buikstra, Regents Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Bioarchaeological Research at Arizona State University (ASU) and a member of the American Academy of Sciences will serve as the projects Director. Buikstra is the scholar who defined the term Bioarchaeology that led to the relevant academic field, and a leader in bioarchaeological research world-wide. Buikstra will oversee the design and execution of the project through frequent communication and videoconference, she will actively participate in the analysis of the paleopathological and forensic aspects of the skeletal material through her annual trips to Athens, and she will direct the interpretation and publication of the projects results. Buikstra will devote 10% of her time annually for the first two years and 50% in the third year. Eleni-Anna Prevedorou will serve as the projects Co-Director holding a postdoctoral position at ASU and the Wiener Laboratory. She has worked closely with Buikstra on a number of projects during her graduate training at ASU and her postgraduate career. She is bilingual and 15 can thus manage all aspects of the project, including excavation notes and bureaucratic documentation in both Greek and English. Her research has focused upon the excavation, analysis, and contextual interpretation of skeletal assemblages and archaeological sites in Athens, Attica, and the surrounding regions, thus she is well versed in the history and archaeology of the projects study area. Prevedorou further specializes in biodistance and biogeochemistry and has applied extensive isotopic analyses for the study of ancient migration and diet, including the establishment of comparative, isotopic baseline data around Greece and the Aegean world and, thus, she is fully qualified to supervise and implement all stages of the different analytical methodologies. She will devote 100% of her time annually for three years to the management, analysis, interpretation, and publication of the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project. Greg Anderson is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the Ohio State University. Andersons primary work areas consist of ancient history and critical theory of the ancient world. His interests include the birth of democracy, tyranny, and state formation, economy, and religion in ancient Athens. Anderson will serve as the projects consultant on Athenian history and he will devote 10% of his time annually on the Phaleron Project. He will collaborate with Buikstra and Prevedorou in background research, literature review, and ancient sources and he will advise in the interpretation of the Phaleron mortuary site for the social, political, and economic evolvement of ancient Athens. Anderson will travel to Athens and the American School to confer with the projects Director and Co-Director in addition to regular videoconferences. Paraskevi Tritsaroli is currently a Visiting Senior Research Member at the Wiener Laboratory. Tritsaroli is an experienced bioarchaeologist and she has actively participated in the excavation and field recording of the human skeletal remains at the Phaleron cemetery. Thus, she 16 is particularly familiar with the skeletal assemblage, the material culture, and the burial environment at the Phaleron site. Tritsaroli will be conducting the osteological data collection focusing on demographic and paleopathological indicators and she will participate in data processing. She will devote 100% of her time annually for the first two years of the project. Zoi Chalatsi is a graduate of the Department of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art of the Technological Educational Institute of Athens and an associate of the Institute for Aegean Prehistory and the Wiener Laboratory. She is a professional conservator specializing on the conservation and recording of human skeletal remains. She will serve as the head conservator of the conservation team for the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project and she will manage all conservation aspects and archives, as well as photographic documentation in collaboration with Prevedorou. Chalatsi will devote 100% of her time during the first two years of the project. Dawnie Steadman is a Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist, Director of the Forensic Anthropology Center and Professor at the University of Tennessee. Steadman will be a collaborator on the Phaleron Project focusing upon demographic forensic aspects such as aging and sexing methods and, particularly, trauma. Her participation in the project will involve the examination of the victims of violent death and possible torture and the demographic analysis of this diverse cemetery population. Steadman will devote 10% of her time to the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project. Panagiotis Karkanas is the Director of the Wiener Laboratory of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and a member of the Greek Archaeological Service. Karkanas is an internationally prominent geoarchaeologist conducting research in Greece, the wider Mediterranean, the Balkans, northern Europe, Africa, and China. He will conduct the geoarchaeological analysis of the Phaleron cemetery and will be involved in the stratigraphic and 17 chronological assessments of the individual burials. He will also provide the infrastructure at the Wiener Laboratory and will facilitate the every-day needs of the project. He will devote 5% of his time to the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project. Stella Chrysoulaki is the Head of the Archaeological Service of Western Attica, Piraeus, and Islands (Dept. of the Greek Ministry of Culture) and the Director of the excavation of the Phaleron cemetery since 2012. Chrysoulaki and her excavation team will work closely with the bioarchaeological team to contextualize the human remains and they will provide all excavation records and the results of the stylistic study of the recovered pottery. Dr. Chrysoulaki will devote 5% of her time to the Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project. Kelly Knudson is an Associate Professor and Director of the Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory at Arizona State University where isotopic analyses for diet and migration will take place. Knudson will collaborate on the isotopic analysis of the Phaleron remains and will devote 2% of her time during the second and third years of the project. Johannes Krause is the Head of the Department of Archaeogenetics and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Anne Stone is Regents Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Anthropology at Arizona State University. Krause and Stone will collaborate on the ancient DNA analytical studies that will take place at the Max Planck Institute. Stone will devote 2% and Krause 5% of time during the second and third year of the project. Greg Hodgins is the Director of the University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometer Laboratory. George Fakorellis is an Associate Professor at the Department of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art of the Technological Education Institute of Athens. Hodgins and Fakorellis will collaborate on the radiocarbon dating analysis of the Phaleron remains that will 18 take place at the University of Arizona. Hodgins will devote 5% of his time and Fakorellis 2% during the first and second years of the project. Methods Conservation, inventorying, sample selection, and data collection of the remaining pit burials will take place at the Wiener Laboratory during the first year of the proposed funding period. To ensure the timely completion of the project, we will prioritize the skulls that provide most of the necessary information. All conservation and curation stages will follow protocols that are in accordance with the biochemical (isotopic, radiocarbon) and ancient DNA analyses. To reconstruct the demographic profile of the human burials from Phaleron, data will be collected on skeletal age and sex. Age-at-death estimation and sex determination will follow standard methodologies for adults (Buikstra and Ubelaker, 1994) and for fetal and juvenile remains (Fazekas and Ksa, 1978; Scheuer and Black, 2000). When possible, transition analysis, a recent advance in aging methods, will be performed to estimate age-at-death (Boldsen et al., 2012; Milner and Boldsen, 2012). Stature will be estimated following the formula by Eliakis and colleagues (1966) developed for Greek populations based on forensic specimens from the University of Athens. For comparative purposes, stature estimations based on the Trotter formula for European-Americans commonly used in Greek human skeletal studies will also be provided (Trotter, 1970). Paleopathological analysis will also follow standard protocols for pathological conditions, trauma, developmental anomalies, musculoskeletal stress markers, and possible artificial postmortem modifications macroscopically, microscopically, as well as through radiographs (Buikstra and Ubelaker, 1994; Ortner, 2003). 19 Biogeochemical analysis will be conducted to examine the geographic origins (radiogenic strontium isotope analysis) and the dietary practices (stable strontium isotope analysis) of the individuals buried at Phaleron. Biogeochemistry is widely employed in archaeological research for the reconstruction of mobility, migration, and paleodiet. The chemical element strontium (Sr) moves from bedrock into the food chain through soil and groundwater, and ultimately into the human skeleton (Bentley, 2006; Price et al., 2002). The radiogenic strontium isotopic composition of human bone and teeth (87Sr/86Sr) reflects the chemical composition of the individuals food and water sources, which in turn reflects the chemical composition of the geological region and habitat from which the food and water sources were obtained (Bentley, 2006). Specifically, dental enamel forms during early childhood and does not remodel, thus its isotopic composition reflects the composition of the sources consumed during the period of enamel formation. Consequently, differences between the isotopic signature of enamel samples that form in early life and the isotopic signature of the region in which the individual died can reveal changes in the residential history of the individual. The method is based on the variation of 87Sr/86Sr values between different geological terrains according to geological age and geochemical composition of the local bedrock. The archaeological samples are supplemented by modern environmental samples (e.g., fauna and water) to characterize the locally available 87Sr/86Sr ranges (e.g., Price et al., 2002; Bentley, 2006; Bentley et al., 2004; for Attica, see Prevedorou, 2015). Hence, 87Sr/86Sr analysis will allow us to reconstruct the geographic origins of the individuals buried at Phaleron and examine possible non-local provenance and migration (e.g., foreign population, laborers, slaves, captives). To examine paleodiet, stable strontium isotope analysis (d88/86Sr) will be conducted on the same archaeological specimens. The d88/86Sr methodology is based on trophic level 20 fractionation within any given ecosystem and allows us to directly trace the dietary origin of strontium into the human organism by revealing diets based on either terrestrial or marine resources (Knudson et al., 2010; Prevedorou, 2015). Thus, d88/86Sr analysis will permit us to reconstruct the dietary practices of the ancient people buried at Phaleron and also examine a potential discrimination based on marine foods for people with a maritime background (e.g., sailors, pirates). Radiocarbon analysis ( 14C) will be performed on samples across the cemetery in order to reconstruct the chronological scope of the cemetery and to examine potential chronological differences between the different burial groups (e.g., jar burials, pit burials, deviant burials). Radiocarbon analysis is a dating technique performed on collagen recovered from bone elements that allows us to obtain absolute calendar dates from the skeleton and, thus, to directly date individual burials. Ancient human DNA and ancient pathogen DNA analysis will be performed on skeletons across the Phaleron cemetery (deviant and non-deviant). The goal of the human ancient DNA analysis is to reconstruct the full genome of the sampled individuals and thus to examine the genetic make-up of the population buried in Phaleron, the presence of biological relatedness, and deep-history origins and mobility. The goal of the pathogen ancient DNA analysis is to test for the presence of pathogens and thus to examine the circulation of pathogens at the ancient port and the hypothesis that the cemetery included victims of infectious diseases. All sampling for the analytical methodologies described above (biogeochemical, radiocarbon, DNA) will take place by Prevedorou. Archaeological samples will be selected and prepared at the Wiener Laboratory and will be subsequently transferred to the designated laboratories. Prevedorou will further direct and implement the biogeochemical analyses on diet 21 and migration at Arizona State University in collaboration with the ASU Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory Director, Prof. Kelly Knudson. Given the large scale of the proposed project and the size of the skeletal sample, data management is a crucial component. For this purpose, a database will be designed and implemented. An example of such a system is the standardized skeletal documentation software Osteoware by the National Museum of National History of the Smithsonian Institution (available at that is based on the standards manual of the field (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994). The Phaleron Bioarchaeological Project Database will incorporate aspects of Osteoware, but it will expand the data fields to include detailed conservation information, biodistance data, sampling information (isotopic, aDNA, radiocarbon), photographs, and excavation records. The Phaleron database will be accessible through the projects website in order for different researchers to be able to access it at different levels and from different locations (e.g., viewing and/or entering data). The goal is to provide the complete information for each burial, including all types of data, photographs, and excavation records in a unified data collection system. Excavation records will be translated into English by Prevedorou and incorporated in the Digital Database of the Phaleron Biarchaeological Project so that they can be readily accessible. Literature review for the contextualization of the sources will take place mainly at the Blegen Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Primary historic sources relative to the Phaleron cemetery and to the projects goals (e.g., historic events, references to execution, etc.) will be examined by Anderson, the projects historian, and will be incorporated into the sites interpretation. Processing of archaeological data and material culture studies will take place by Chrysoulaki. 22 Work plan Here, we provide a work plan for the activities of the three-year project to be funded by NEH. October 1, 2017 March 31, 2018: Curation and photographic documentation (Z. Chalatsi) and osteological data collection (V. Tritsaroli) of the skeletons derived from simple, pit burials. Bibliographical research and monthly videoconference calls (Buikstra, Prevedorou). Projects digital database development and implementation (Prevedorou in collaboration with IT consultant). Projects website development (Prevedorou in collaboration with IT consultant). April 1, 2018 September 30, 2018: Completion of the curation and photographic documentation (Z. Chalatsi) and osteological data collection (V. Tritsaroli). Lectures and conference presentations (Buikstra, Prevedorou). Preparation and transfer of skeletal samples (Prevedorou). Monthly videoconference calls (Buikstra, Prevedorou). Trips to Greece for data analysis, archival research, and collaboration meetings (Buikstra, Anderson, Steadman) and to the US (Prevedorou). Projects website and digital database maintenance (Prevedorou in collaboration with IT consultant). October 1, 2018 March 31, 2019: Bibliographical research (Prevedorou). Projects website and digital database maintenance (Prevedorou). Translation of Greek excavation records (Prevedorou). Data management and chemical analyses (Prevedorou). Monthly videoconference calls (Buikstra, Prevedorou). Trips for collaboration meetings (Buikstra, Prevedorou). April 1, 2019 September 30, 2019: Bibliographical research (Prevedorou). Projects website and digital database maintenance (Prevedorou). Translation of Greek excavation records (Prevedorou). Data management and analysis (Prevedorou). Monthly videoconference calls (Buikstra, Prevedorou). Trips for collaboration meetings (Buikstra, Prevedorou). 23 October 1, 2019 March 31, 2020: Completion of all chemical analyses (biochemical, radiocarbon, and DNA). Bibliographical research and synthesis of the cemeterys finds and results by Prevedorou, Buikstra, and Anderson. Trips to Greece for collaboration meetings (Buikstra, Anderson). Projects website and digital database maintenance (Prevedorou). April 1, 2020 September 30, 2020: Synthesis, interpretation, and publication of the cemeterys finds and results by Buikstra, Prevedorou, Anderson, and Steadman. Projects website maintenance (Prevedorou). Final product and dissemination Dissemination of the projects results will act at different levels targeting both scholarly and public audiences. The project will have an active website ( The website will be updated regularly providing summaries of the ongoing work, photographic material, as well as preliminary results and highlights. Formal and informal talks will be given at both the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and Arizona State University. Given the publicity of the Phaleron excavation and skeletal assemblage in Greece, the Wiener Laboratory will also hosts open-house days when members of the local and international academic community, the Greek Archaeological Services, and the pubic can visit the laboratory space and see the ongoing bioarchaeological work. The preliminary and final results of the project will be presented annually at international academic conferences. All results will be fully published. The various components of the project will be published in a series of peer-reviewed publications in leading journals of the field. The absolute dating and the interpretation of the burial contexts will be submitted to the American Journal of Archaeology. The biogeochemical results and the investigation of mobility and dietary 24 patterns will be submitted to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and the Journal of Archaeological Science. The paleopathological results and the examination of health and disease patterns will be submitted to the International Journal of Paleopathology. The ancient DNA results will be submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An edited volume will be published as a Hesperia Supplement by the American School of Classical Studies (Princeton) that will include the synthesized interpretation of the Phaleron cemetery and its people. With the completion of the project, the Bioarchaeological Database will be made available online to serve as a model for bioarchaeological data management and dissemination for studies of large scale both in Greece and internationally.
Effective start/end date10/1/179/30/22


  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): $99,124.00


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