The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Morphological and genetic analysis of Nubian populations from the Early to Late Holocene


1Anthropology, Emory University, 2School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, University College Dublin, 3Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder

April 15, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B Add to calendar

The biological history of the occupants of Nubia throughout the Holocene remains a topic of debate; specifically, there is some tendency to assume a discontinuous history of occupation and cultural development based on traditional anthropological and archaeological evidence. Population movements, a shift in subsistence strategies and in-situ evolution have all been used to explain the biological variation observed in Nubian remains, particularly in the cranium. Here we investigate craniofacial and mandibular shape patterns, as well as ancient DNA variation, among populations from Upper and Lower Nubia spanning 12,000 years and reflecting a transition from hunting-gathering to intensive farming.

Our sample includes 150 adult specimens from six archaeological sites along the Nile River in Egypt and Sudan that belong to eight chrono-cultural groups spanning from the Late Mesolithic through the Christian periods. All individuals were digitized with a surface scanner, then 397 and 120 three-dimensional landmarks and semilandmarks respectively were extracted on skulls and mandibles of each specimen. Landmark configurations were subjected to generalized Procrustes analysis, tangent space projection, principal component analysis, discriminant analysis, and MANOVA. Endogenous DNA was extracted and sequenced from a subsample in order to explore variation in Nubian population genetics throughout time and space using informative SNPs and haplogroup determination.

Our results highlight a strong distinction between Mesolithic and the Neolithic samples. Craniofacial patterns underline the importance of gene flow and give some support to the hypothesis of regional continuity among more recent groups, while patterns of mandibular morphology show high correlation with subsistence strategy.