Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

James F. Strange, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rosanne Bongiovanni, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Cavendish, Ph.D.


Leprosy, disease control, osteoarchaeology, leprosaria, religious charity, segregated burial


This thesis aims to outline the causes, symptoms, and treatments related to leprosy, and how it can be diagnosed in patients and identified in human remains. The thesis also aims to demonstrate the ways in which care for leprosy sufferers developed as the disease became more prevalent and more commonly, and correctly identified. It analyses the social stigmas inflicted upon sufferers, and the medical care and attention provided for them by religious institutions when other groups or organisations shunned those suffering from leprosy. The rationale for this study is to identify trends surrounding the social stigmas attached to leprosy and care from the first identifiable case of strain three of Mycobacterium leprae in the 1st century AD to the late Middle Ages when the number of cases of leprosy appears to begin to decline.

Using archaeological evidence, historical records, and the published research of experts in the field, this thesis demonstrates that as leprosy spread throughout the Middle East and Europe, religious organisations often took on the role as care givers for leprosy sufferers through the ideal of religious, often Christian, charity; to look after the poor, sick, and needy. As the trends presented in this study have yet to be published elsewhere in this way, this thesis aims to contribute via an interdisciplinary approach to the fields of religious archaeology, anthropology and bioarchaeology.