The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Strontium isotope variability (87Sr /86Sr) in the ancient Nile Valley (Egypt and Nubia): Establishing baseline data and tracking human mobility


1Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden Univeristy, 2Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, 3Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences, University of Notre Dame

April 16, 2020 , Diamond 6 Add to calendar

Previous research of (87Sr /86Sr) in the ancient Nile Valley has provided compelling evidence for population movement through time. The estimation of local values, based on faunal sampling, has been established at several sites, providing a better idea of strontium variability across the landscape. While this 87Sr /86Sr research remains promising, there are also methodological and interpretative issues that must be addressed. We couch this discussion of limitations and future directions with faunal and human 87Sr /86Sr data for the Third Cataract region of the Nile Valley (n=61). New samples from Abu Fatima (2500-1550 BCE), Hannek (1550-656 BCE), and Tombos (1550-656 BCE) were analyzed and the results are presented here.

Results from two faunal samples supported the previously estimated local 87Sr /86Sr range for the Third Cataract (0.70710-0.70783). Furthermore, 11 of the 59 human samples were found to have 87Sr /86Sr outside of this local range, suggesting they had migrated from elsewhere. This sheds new light on the scale of migration during the 3rd-1st millennia BCE and, importantly, illustrates the need for further research. There is a distinct need for a better understanding of strontium variability in the region, particularly in Egypt and the Second Cataract region. Additional comparisons of 87Sr /86Sr values between modern and ancient fauna would also illuminate changes in bioavailable 87Sr /86Sr through time. A National Science Foundation grant has been awarded to address these issues and further the examination of 87Sr /86Sr in the Nile Valley.

Slides/Poster (pdf)