Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Alexander A. Bauer

Committee Members

Elizabeth Macaulay

Karen Stern

Christa Salamandra

Nadine Panayot Haroun

Subject Categories

Archaeological Anthropology


Motherhood, Late Antiquity, Medieval, Healing Shrines, Lebanon, Mediterranean, Religion


This archaeological study of healing shrines in North Lebanon begins with the story of why scholars have neglected these shrines. It is not essential to identify a gap in the scholarship without understanding why this gap existed in the first place. Healing shrines were often associated with popular religion and women’s superstitions, and to understand their position in the historical landscape of North Lebanon, I begin by laying out the history of archeology in Lebanon. It is imperative for the reader of this study to understand how the discipline of archaeology was founded and practiced and its implications on the present day and the state of the field. Being a colonial enterprise, archaeology sought to uncover certain truths, thus directly or indirectly silencing many others. The written historical narrative presented an imagined past, even when the artifacts and archaeological remains proved otherwise. Among the stories repeatedly silenced were those of a shared past, of religious coexistence that could be contrasted with today’s sectarianism. Others were stories of mothers and women healers, founders, and protectors of shrines. By examining healing shrines in the landscape, this study also uncovers stories of how women moved across the land, founded, and maintained shrines, and cultivated the land and sea to heal and protect their families. The dissertation also examines the relationship women built with some Christian saints even when the women themselves were not Christians. Using data collected from an archaeological survey of shrines strictly related to fertility, lactation, and infant health, I also examine the association of these shrines with death. Seeing that many were either adjacent to cemeteries, had human remains buried within them, or had murals depicting images of the afterlife and rebirth, it became clear that many shrines were memorials. They were built to remember a traumatic past and a lost loved one while instructing for a better, more hopeful future. They are liminal spaces between the public and the private world of women. They are neither her household shrine nor are they the parish church. Shrines are imbued with the thaumaturgic powers of healing minerals and miraculous water. They are places that promise rebirth and new beginnings.

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