Some Observations on Christian Burial Practices at Kellis

Some Observations on Christian Burial Practices at Kellis

Gillian E. Bowen

Introduction
In 1997 I was invited by Anthony Mills to publish the archaeology of the Kellis 2 cemetery as an adjunct to my work on early Christianity in Egypt. Since that time further Christian burials have been discovered at Kellis other than in this cemetery. The primary aim of this paper is to publish preliminary observations on the burial practices adopted by the Christian community at Kellis in light of what is known of such practices in Egypt. The graves in Kellis 2 are being excavated by archaeologists under the direction of Eldon Molto, who co-ordinates the work of the physical anthropologists. Molto and his team are conducting a range of analyses on the skeletal remains that have added a new dimension to our knowledge of the community. Molto’s analyses include radiocarbon tests of twelve samples in an effort to determine the date of the interments. The interpretation of the results of those analyses presents a broad time-frame that is seemingly at variance with the data from the settlement. This paper, therefore, presents an ideal opportunity to consider this dichotomy and how it might be addressed by  archaeologists and physical anthropologists alike.

 

A paper on Roman era burials of Egyptians that converted to Christianity, NOT Roman Christians.

The number of Christian burials at Kellis and the lack of identified pagan burials from the end of the third century attest the rapid conversion of the community.

 DNA from modern Egypt suggests that any Roman input was a fraction of one percent, and so it would seem unlikely that a place so far off the beaten track in the South Western Desert would have any large amount of non Egyptian ancestry in it. Dr Molto’s DNA breakdown of the population was that it had mainly northern (Eurasian) maternal haplotypes.

Both populations, ancient and contemporary, fit the north-south clinal distribution of “southern” and “northern” mtDNA types (Graver et al. 2001). However, significant differences were found between these populations. Based on an increased frequency of HpaI 3592 (+) haplotypes in the contemporary Dakhlehian population, the authors suggested that, since Roman times, gene flow from the Sub-Saharan region has affected gene frequencies of individuals from the oasis.

I’ve got the abstract here.

There’s a lot of information on the burial customs, both pagan and Christian in the era.

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