The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Marry me, marry my family: Congenital anomalies at Khirbet Qazone


1Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, 2Department of Anthropology, East Carolina University

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The 1st – 3rd century A.D. cemetery of Khirbet Qazone (n=30), located on the southern Dead Sea littoral, served the mourners and deceased residing within this historically fertile area. First as part of the Nabataean Kingdom, and then under Roman rule, the region contained a dynamic mix of Jewish, Nabataean Arab, and/or Hellenized groups, based on epigraphic and other written evidence. Analysis of the human skeletons, excavated by the Hellenic Society for Near East Studies in 1996, 1997, and 2004, revealed a number of congenital conditions among the sample, including transitional vertebrae and abnormalities of the suprascapular region.

The relatively high frequency and unique nature of these and other anomalies (compared with other samples) suggests that the cemetery contains a genetically-closed community, unexpected for a region with notable gene flow from different subpopulations. In addition, some of the anomalies have not been reported outside the medical literature. The skeletal data suggests that gene flow within the region was restricted, and inbreeding between the different linguistic and cultural subgroups was low, contrary to the evidence provided in historical accounts.

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