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

Going against the grain at Gabati


Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh

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Medieval travelers described the southern Nubian landscape as a continuous chain of villages and cultivated lands peppered with sagia irrigation, similar to northern Nubia and Egypt. A decline in dental health, notably caries, is associated with agriculturalists, particularly females, and is supported by the skeletal remains from several northern Nubian and Egyptian sites. The individuals recovered from the rural multiperiod site at Gabati afforded an opportunity to evaluate this hypothesis in the absence of domestic archaeological evidence in the 5th Cataract region. Dentitions of aged and sexed individuals (n = 113 Meroitic, 2nd C BC-3rd C AD; n = 54 post-Meroitic /medieval, mid-5th -Late 11thC AD) were scored for caries, abscesses, calculus and AMTL using tooth and individual counts. The crude prevalence of caries indicated that the disease was infrequent among the Meroitic adults (.07%) and even rarer among the later adults (.03%); caries was less frequent among females and absent among subadults. Abscesses and AMTL followed a similar pattern, while calculus increased dramatically from 24.1% during the Meroitic period to 88.2% in the later period. Two general explanations may account for this pattern: 1) Agriculture was not the subsistence mode for the Gabati people, and/or 2) Non-cariogenic products were consumed. The skeletal evidence supports the lack of archaeological data that high-level agricultural subsistence was likely not practiced at Gabati.

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