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

The impact of socio-political changes on activity patterns in a late Meroitic to Christian period community at El-Ginefab, Sudan


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

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The Ginefab School site, near the top of the Nile's Great Bend, was used as a cemetery from the end of the Meroitic period (c. 350 B.C.-A.D. 350) through the Christian period (c. A.D. 550-1400). The local populace experienced dramatic socio-political and religious changes during this interval. The extent to which habitual behavior patterns were affected is investigated using 28 musculoskeletal stress markers in 50 well-preserved adults.

Comparisons between the Meroitic-Post-Meroitic males (N=20) and females (N=8), Christian period males (N=10) and females (N=13), and for each sex between time periods were made using χ2 tests. Results show that a sexual division of labor persisted through time, although socio-political changes had a greater impact on male activity patterns than those of females. However, as little variability is seen within the samples of males from the same time period, these differences seem to reflect changes in agricultural practices or other routine activities rather than role specialization. This finding is underscored by the comparison of late Meroitic and Post-Meroitic males interred with (N=10) or without (N=10) archery equipment, in which no significant differences in habitual behavior indicators were found. Men who seem to be identified in death as archers appear to have participated in routine male activities rather than as specialized warriors. This study illustrates the utility of analyzing musculoskeletal stress markers to elucidate general patterns of behavior and the impact of major social transformations on routine activities.

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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