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

Cranial non-metric affinities and kinship ideologies among Post-Meroitic and Christian period Nubians from the 4th Cataract Region, Sudan


Center for Bioarchaeological Research, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

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Kinship can serve as a powerful social force governing social obligations, the distribution of resources, and the legitimacy of claims to power and authority. This study investigates the impact of changing political, economic, and religious environments on the types of genealogical relationships emphasized in the mortuary record during the Post-Meroitic (c. A.D. 350-550) and Christian (c. A.D. 550-1500) periods of the Ginefab School Site in the Fourth Cataract Region of Upper Nubia.

Complementing recent investigations of biological distance using dental metric information, the current study collected data on 53 cranial non-metric traits from a total of 68 individuals from the Ginefab School site. Inter-individual phenetic distances based on the Gower similarity measure were visualized for the Post-Meroitic (n=25) and Christian period (n=43) samples using both multidimensional scaling and agglomerative hierarchical cluster analyses. Resulting patterns were compared to the spatial distribution of burials within the cemetery.

Results suggest that though biological relationships between adult males impacted burial location during the Post-Meroitic component of the cemetery, the emphasis on genealogically-based burial intensified during the Christian period and extended to include more complete family groupings including related adult males, females, and children. This trend may conceivably reflect changing conceptualizations of family structure during the Christian period, or may reflect differing gender and age ideologies that rendered a greater range of individuals eligible for ancestral status. This study highlights the potential of intrasite biological distance analysis to elucidate the changing social significance of genealogically-based social distinctions within communities experiencing economic, political, and cultural change.

This skeletal collection derives from fieldwork directed by B.J. Baker under licenses granted to Arizona State University by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (Nos. SU-1897 & SU-2122), with support for fieldwork and lab processing provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (Award Nos. 07-1391, 07-1424, & 08-1472 [OFAC license No. SU-2071]) and The Regents of the University of California, and by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0647055).

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