Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Wagner, Mark


Umm el-Jimal, Jordan, located along the Syrian border in Norther Jordan, began as a Nabatean caravan station in the 1st century AD. After AD 106, the Roman Empire built a line of forts (Limes Arabicus) along trade routes to Arabia for protection. A Roman fort was constructed along with a small village at the site of Umm el-Jimal. Cultural and political change occurred during Late Antiquity (c. AD 250- 800) when the western Roman Empire, commonly referred to as the Byzantine Empire, took control of the Levant. During this period, residents at Umm el-Jimal moved into the Roman fort and built domestic structures and Christian churches along with becoming a supporting town to the larger surrounding cities. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Byzantine period at Umm el-Jimal was a time of prosperity. This research utilized 241 individuals, represented by 126 adults and 115 subadults, excavated from five cemetery Areas (AA, Z, CC, W, and O) and three monumental tombs (BB.1, BB.2, and V). The three main research questions are (1) is there a significant difference in overall biological health within and between burials and throughout time at Umm el-Jimal; (2) are there any relationships or patterns between mortuary practices within and between cemetery areas or throughout the time periods; and (3) Does the bioarchaeological evidence support the ideas suggested by the archaeological evidence that the Byzantine period was a more prosperous time compared to the earlier Roman period. Social bioarchaeological theories, the Poetics of Processing and Colonialism and Imperialism, were utilized to interpret the skeletal and mortuary results to better understand how the living populations at Umm el-Jimal were affected by the changing empires. Groups of individuals were affected biologically by the changing empires at Umm el-Jimal. This could have been the result of increased exposure to disease, the increase of physical activity to build and support the community during the change into the Byzantine period, or an increase of stressors that accompany cultural and political changes. Mortuary practices were the same within and between each cemetery area except for Cemetery Area Z having more cist tombs and coffins present, suggesting that there were individuals with more access to resources burying their dead in that cemetery area. The mortuary treatments and burial locations portrayed important social messages by the living population at Umm el-Jimal. Mortuary practices did not change from the Roman through the transitional period and into the Byzantine period. This suggests that the empires most likely did not enforce the ruling culture to be followed or that the individuals at Umm el-Jimal deliberately chose to keep their beliefs because they were important to them and a way to keep and show social memory of the community.

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