Aviva Cormier, “The Bioarchaeology of the Distinctive Burials of the Phaleron Cemetery, Archaic Greece”

About the lecture:

The world’s attention has been captured by the 7th century BCE finds that emerged from the coastal sands of Faliro, the ancient Port of Athens. Most often discussed are the seventy-nine young men who had been violently executed and interred in three trenches. They lived and died during the political upheavals that culminated in the foundational democracy of Classical Athens. These, however, are but a fraction (<10%) of those excavated between 2012 and 2017 at the site of Phaleron. Most of the 1000+ individuals buried nearby fall within an expected range of burial forms, including pits, cists, and jars. In this talk, I focus on those that fall outside of that range, individuals with mortuary contexts that suggest distinctive experiences in life and death. These distinctive burials include those who were interred collectively in mass graves or buried prone or tightly flexed in single graves, with some bound at the wrists and/or ankles. I present osteobiographies of these individuals- contextualized life histories from their skeletal remains- and emphasize how their potentially violent life and death experiences may have impacted their identity construction, physical wellbeing, and resulting mortuary treatment.

About the speaker:

Dr. Aviva Cormier, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at Davidson College, is a bioarchaeologist who studies human culture, behavior, and society through human skeletal remains and their archaeological or historical contexts. She focuses on potentially marginalized individuals, those whose bodies or mortuary contexts fall outside of what is expected. She studies individuals with physical differences—those whose bodies do not conform to notions of a normal body or to the normal of the society being studied. She pays particular attention to the lived experiences of these individuals, how they might have navigated their physical and social environments, and how they might have self-identified or been identified by their community. Currently, she is a bioarchaeologist with the Phaleron Bioarchaeology Project.