1st Edition

Health and Disease in Byzantine Crete (7th–12th centuries AD)

By Chryssi Bourbou Copyright 2010

    Daily life and living conditions in the Byzantine world are relatively underexplored subjects, often neglected in comparison with more visible aspects of Byzantine culture, such as works of art. The book is among the few publications on Greek Byzantine populations and helps pioneer a new approach to the subject, opening a window on health status and dietary patterns through the lens of bioarchaeological research. Drawing on a diversity of disciplines (biology, chemistry, archaeology and history), the author focuses on the complex interaction between physiology, culture and the environment in Byzantine populations from Crete in the 7th to 12th centuries. The systematic analysis and interpretation of the mortality profiles, the observed pathological conditions, and of the chemical data, all set in the cultural context of the era, brings new evidence to bear on the reconstruction of living conditions in Byzantine Crete. Individual chapters look at the demographic profiles and mortality patterns of adult and non-adult populations, and study dietary habits and breastfeeding and weaning patterns. In addition, this book provides an indispensable body of primary data for future research in these fields, and so furthers an interdisciplinary approach in tracing the health of the past populations.

    Introduction; The jigsaw puzzle of health in context; In search of Homo Byzantinus; Tiny occupants in shallow graves: the bioarchaeology of non-adult individuals; The Byzantine world on a plate; Conclusions: reconstructing health and disease patterns in Byzantine Crete: results and perspectives; Glossary; References cited; Index.


    Dr Chryssi Bourbou is a Research Associate at the 28th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities (Hellenic Ministry of Culture), Greece

    'Bourbou does an excellent job of introducing the reader to the biochemistry involved in stable isotope analysis, a process key to determining the daily diet of these former residents of Crete.' Speculum 'This study is a milestone in the series Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean, which is devoted to all aspects of medicine during the Middle Ages. Bourbou has provided the reader with careful analysis and interpretation of human remains dated to the Byzantine era (seventh-twelfth centuries AD) and excavated from archaeological sites on the island of Crete in Greece, such as Eleutherna, Kastella, Stylos and Petras... Bourbou’s study has laid important groundwork for future palaeopathological and bioarchaeological explorations.' Social History of Medicine 'Bourbou’s major originality and contribution to these topics is her thorough analysis of bio-archaeological remains, which complements ideally any textual and archaeological study of these subject... [it] will undoubtedly prove helpful to scholars in the field.' The Medieval Review