The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Population continuity or replacement at ancient Lachish? A dental affinity analysis in the Levant


Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks

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Are material culture changes between late Bronze and early Iron Age inhabitants of Lachish, in modern day Israel, the result of immigrants settling the region, or an in situ evolution of practices by the same indigenous peoples? The research objectives are to: 1) assess dental affinity of an Iron Age Lachish sample relative to its Bronze Age predecessor, and 2) compare data in both groups with European and North African comparative samples to estimate biological affinity within the Mediterranean area. In the process, two competing hypotheses are tested; one postulates continuity and the other population replacement between the Bronze and Iron Age. Using the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System, up to 36 non-metric permanent crown, root, and osseous trait frequencies were compared using the mean measure of divergence statistic to determine inter-sample phenetic affinities. In support of previous work, the results suggest: 1) biological continuity between the Lachish Bronze and Iron Ages, and 2) overall affinity to North African and European populations within the Mediterranean Diaspora – based on samples of various age from Giza, Carthage, Greece, Italy, Algeria, and Turkey, among others. These findings expand upon previous work by using a much larger number of traits and comparative samples; they also lend support to one of many competing theories identifying the ancient Lachish peoples, while providing an increased understanding of the Bronze and Iron Age transition in the Levant. This transition is often considered one of the most intriguing and volatile periods in the Near East.

Funding to collect data in the Lachish and comparative samples was provided by a Sigma Xi grant to the first author (G20101015155258), and a National Science Foundation grant to the second author (BCS-0840674, BNS-0104731, BNS-9013942).

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