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

The Biological Impact of Cultural Transformations and Economic Differences in Ancient Nubia


1Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2Anthropology, Emory University

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Patterns of skeletal robustity are compared among four ancient Nubian populations. Two from Wadi Halfa are separated by time as well as political/economic conditions. The earlier Meroitic population (300 BCE-350 CE) represents a time of centralized political authority and complex economic interactions. The later (350-550CE) Ballana population represents a time of political and economic fragmentation. The two populations from Kulubnarti represent contemporaneous (742 +/- 81 CE) communities – one a landed peasantry and the other a community of landless, itinerant laborers.

Our results show significant (P<.05) sexual dimorphism in both the Meroitic and Ballana populations of Wadi Halfa. Ballana males are also slightly (3%) but significantly (P<.05) more robust than their Meroitic counterparts. There are no differences between Meroitic and Balanna females. These data suggest that the Meroitic-Billana transition likely had little impact on overall health with a slight increase in male physical activity.

There are no (P>.05) community differences between either the males or the females at Kulubnarti. Patterns of sexual dimorphism do however reveal an interesting difference. The landed peasantry are sexually dimorphic (P<.05) while the itinerants are not. This singular (relative to all four communities) loss of sexual dimorphism within the itinerant community is consistent with skeletal and demographic evidence attesting to the poorer health, reduced growth, and increased mortality among their infants and children. It would appear therefore that social stratification at Kulubnarti had a greater impact than the political-economic transition at Wadi Halfa.

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