Catholic to the Bone: The Bioarchaeological Imprint of Marian Devotion
From Jeff Layne
Faculty, Anthropology Department,
How do two skeletons discovered during excavation for a medical center reveal the spiritual devotion of nuns who lived over a century ago? First, Dr. Frank Bayham explains the terminology in the title of his presentation – “bioarchaeology” refers to archeology that focuses on physical aspects of the dead subject, including diet and nutrition, health and disease, trauma, and activity, while “Marian Devotion” refers to the devotion to or veneration of St. Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. One of the striking aspects of the skeletons of the two nuns was their osteoarthritis – joint degeneration – in a distinctive pattern in their hands. It turns out that this was due to the repetitive motion of manipulating rosary beads while saying the rosary countless times over the course of a lifetime. In fact, both skeletons were buried with rosary beads and a crucifix. Dr. Bayham also talks about why millions of Christians over the centuries since the time of Christ have identified with Mary and the rosary.
Recorded: March 3, 2016