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

Isotopic variation of geographic origin and diet in Upper and Lower Nubia during the Bronze Age: An examination of the sociopolitical effects on population composition and life ways


1Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, 2Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences, University of Notre Dame, 3Department of Geology & Geophysics, University of Utah

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The Bronze Age in Nubia (~3100-1100BC) was an era of tremendous development and change in the region. During this time, polities expanded in Upper and Lower Nubia and these cultures interacted with each other as well as their Egyptian neighbors to the north. Strontium (87Sr/86Sr) and carbon (δ13C ) isotopic analysis of dental enamel carbonate provides important information regarding how geographic origins and diet were affected by the dynamic sociopolitical activities of people living in Nubia. With few baseline data published, this study provides an essential understanding of the isotopic variability in Nubia and the larger Nile Valley region through analysis of human and faunal samples from six sites in Nubia and two sites in Egypt. 87Sr/86Sr human values generally decrease from north to south in the Nile Valley with statistically significant differences between the Egyptian sites studied and most of the Nubian sites. These data suggest that it may be possible to distinguish immigrant Egyptians from local Nubians through strontium isotope analysis and indicate that some Egyptians may have relocated to Upper Nubia during Egyptian New Kingdom period imperial activities, corroborating ideas based on previous craniometric and artifactual studies. δ13C data reveal that, while both Egyptians and Nubians have a mixed C3/C4 diet, C4 foods contributed more to the diet in Nubia but became less important over time. Geological and environmental factors as well as sociopolitical and cultural changes have a considerable effect on both the methodology and interpretation of these isotopic analyses.

NSF BCS-0917815, American Philosophical Society, National Geographic Society, AAPA Professional Development Grant

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