Bioarchaeological study of the skeletal remains attributed to Saint Ceccardo from Luni, patron of Carrara (Tuscany)

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Simona Minozzi
Giovanni Gatti
Stefano Ricci
Valentina Giuffra
Agata Lunardini


canonical recognition, paleonutrition, stress markers, radiocarbon dating, facial reconstruction, Early Medieval Age


Aim: The research focused on the multidisciplinary study of the skeletal remains attributed to Saint Ceccardo from Luni, patron of Carrara (Tuscany, Italy), with the aim of clarifying the period in which he lived, reconstructing his biological profile, and verifying the circumstances of his death.

Material and Methods: The skeleton, almost complete and well-preserved, was studied by using the classical anthropological and paleopathological methods implemented by X-ray and CT scans; the latter allowed 3D rendering of the skull and physiognomic facial reconstruction. C14 dating and stable isotope analyses were also performed.

Results: The biological profile evidenced a fairly robust adult male of short stature. Enamel hypoplasia, Harris lines, cribra cranii and orbitalia, diffuse periosteal reactions were present, but no perimortal lesions were observed. Paleonutritional analysis indicates a consumption of C3 plants and a high dietary protein intake. Radiocarbon dating places the death of Saint Ceccardo between the 8th and the 10th centuries.

Discussion: The presence of several stress markers evidences physiological stress occurrences in both childhood and adulthood. On the other hand, isotope analysis indicates a good nutritional intake, in agreement with the saint’s episcopal rank. The absence of bone lesions does not support the tradition of martyrdom or murder, as attested by historical sources. Radiocarbon dating agrees with the historical sources that refer to Saint Ceccardo as bishop of Luni in the 9th century.

Conclusion: The bioarcheological study of the remains attributed to the martyrs, saints, and blessed of the Catholic Church is a relevant field of research. It enriches the historical sources with solid scientific data, it allows to gain information on health status and living conditions, and it sometimes offers new perspectives on hagiographic investigation.

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