Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Lorena Madrigal

Keywords

ancient health, ecogeographic patterning, Egypt, Northeast Africa, Nubia, postcrania

Abstract

Human body size and limb proportions can provide important information about adaptation, population movements, and health disparities. This study investigated changes in body size and limb proportions of adult Egyptians temporally and geographically in relation to climatological, sociopolitical and economic developments. It was predicted that Egyptian groups that experienced more environmental stress would be shorter and exhibit less sexual dimorphism. It was also predicted that Egyptians would be intermediate between higher and lower latitude populations in body form and limb length ratios. The main skeletal sample consisted of 492 males and 528 females, all adults from the Predynastic and Dynastic Periods, a time spanning c. 5500 BCE-600 CE. Egyptian body dimensions were compared to Nubian groups, as well as to modern Egyptians and other higher and lower latitude populations. The present study found a downward trend in ancient Egyptian stature for both sexes through time, as well as decreased sexual dimorphism in stature. The decreases may be associated with dietary and social stress with the intensification of agriculture and increased societal complexity. Modern Egyptians in the study's sample are generally taller and heavier than their predecessors; however, modern Egyptians exhibit relatively lower sexual dimorphism in stature. Ancient Egyptians have more tropically adapted limbs in comparison to body breadths, which tend to be intermediate when plotted against higher and lower latitude populations. These results may reflect the greater plasticity of limb lengths compared to body breadth. The results might also suggest early Mediterranean and/or Near Eastern influence in Northeast Africa.

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