(University of Oxford, United Kingdom)

Abstract: The modern village of Bärenthal lies in the highlands of the Westalb in a side valley of the upper Danube. It is located in an area with poor soils and an exceptionally harsh climate. The 7th to 10th century graveyard was unexpectedly discovered in 2007 during industrial land development. Archaeological excavations and surveys were conducted at the site by the Regierungspräsidium Freiburg and the University of Tübingen from 2008 to 2010. The team found approximately 100 graves with a high number of buried children as well as a two phase church with constructional contexts and settlement structures. Peculiar groupings of the burials, very obvious pathological lesions on the skeletons, and particularly well preserved bone have led to an early interest in osteoarchaeological questions: Did the buried population fall prey to one or more epidemic events? What were the living conditions like in such a challenging environment? Because graveyards of the early Christian period are very scarce in contrast to the abundant earlier pagan cemeteries of the Alamanni the site of Bärenthal can tell us much about the treatment of the deceased in the Christian burial ritual of rural populations just after conversion. The results of my MA thesis and of further ongoing research on the material will be presented in an interdisciplinary context. My talk can be tailored according to two of your advertised topics: Burial Archaeology or Forensic Aspect. Under the first category I would more stress a bioarchaeological contextual approach, under the second category more the pathological analysis and statistical revaluations.

Keywords: medieval childhood, living conditions, malnutrition, demography