Bioarchaeology of the everyday: Analysis of activity patterns and diet in the Nile Valley

Sarah A Schrader, Purdue University


By employing a bioarchaeological perspective, this dissertation addresses how quotidian acts are altered during and as a consequence of sociopolitical change. Specifically, variation in day-to-day activities associated with the transition from the New Kingdom to the Napatan Periods in Ancient Nubia is explored. The focal site of the dissertation, Tombos, is located at the Third Cataract and was continuously inhabited throughout this instance of sociopolitical transition. An additional nine skeletal samples from Egypt and Nubia were also examined to investigate comparative variation in activity and diet throughout the Nile Valley. The methods of entheseal remodeling and osteoarthritis were used to broadly infer levels of manual labor. Stable isotope analysis of bone collagen and carbonate were examined to better understand dietary patterns. The theoretical perspectives of embodiment, structuration, and social identity were applied to illustrate the significance of quotidian action and further theoretical notions of the skeleton. A distinct increase in activity (entheseal remodeling, osteoarthritis) was found between the New Kingdom Tombos and Napatan Tombos populations. This suggests that despite having social, political, and economic authority during the Napatan Period, some Nubian populations were engaging in more physically strenuous activities than during the previous colonial Egyptian New Kingdom. Activities including farming, animal husbandry, and granite quarrying are possible explanations for this increase in activity. Dietary reconstruction suggests the Napatan Tombos sample was eating more C3 plants than the New Kingdom Tombos population. This may be due to an environment of post-colonial transculturation and coexistence between Egyptians and Nubians. However, collagen analysis was not particularly successful. Possible reasons for these issues as well as proposed resolutions are put forward. This dissertation is an example of the applicability of human skeletal remains to theoretically driven anthropological questions. From a regional history perspective, these new data suggests the daily lives, both physical and dietary, of Nubians significantly changed with the New Kingdom/Napatan transition.




Buzon, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Physical anthropology

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