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

Life and Death in a Medieval Nubian Farming Community at the Fourth Cataract: An Example from Mis Island


1Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University, 2Anthropology, Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner

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An extremely well-preserved collection of 407 medieval Nubians from Mis Island offers a unique opportunity for an in-depth investigation of life experience from the Fourth Cataract. This study macroscopically investigates the prevalence and expression of pathology in adults and subadults from the 3-J-10 and 3-J-11 cemeteries. The goals of this research are twofold: first, to clarify whether 3-J-10 and 3-J-11 represent the same or two distinct populations and, second, to investigate important cultural development stages through the analysis of age-related pathology.

Results indicate that 3-J-11 had higher crude frequencies of cribra orbitalia (68.5%) and scorbutic lesions (37.4%) than 3-J-10 (56.6% and 23.4%, respectively). However, 3-J-10 had higher frequencies of porotic hyperostosis (54.9%) and periosteal reaction (66.1%) than 3-J-11 (51.5% and 60.3%, respectively). There were no statistically significant differences in true prevalence rates between adult age or sex groups among either cemetery 3-J-10 or 3-J-11; however, subadults (83%) were more often afflicted with cribra orbitalia than adults (47%), while adults (60%) exhibited more porotic hyperostosis than subadults (45%). While there are no statistically significant differences between cemeteries for pathology, there are significant differences between adults and subadults for cribra orbitalia and scorbutic lesions, lending support to a relationship between cribra orbitalia and vitamin C deficiency. Overall, it seems that environmental context and resource availability were the main contributors to health in both samples, while the cribra orbitalia and scorbutic lesions may indicate that weanling diets were deficient in vitamin C.

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