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Ref ID: 36509
Ref Type: Thesis-PhD
Authors: White, Christine Diana
Title: Isotopic analysis of multiple human tissues from three ancient Nubian populations
Date: 1991
Place of Publication: Toronto
Publisher: University of Toronto
Type: Ph.D.
Abstract: Nubian culture experienced many political, economic, and environmental changes during the initial period of the Intensive Agricultural Phase. In this study, bone, skin, muscle and hair from 146 naturally dessicated human mummies found in the Wadi Halfa area were analysed using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in order to reconstruct diet. The three cultural periods represented are
Meroitic (350 B.C.-A.D. 350), X-Group (A.D. 350-550), and Christian (A.D. 550-1400). The chemical data indicate that cultural change was accompanied by statistically significant dietary change. The quantities of C4 plants (millet and sorghum) added to a predominantly C3 plant (wheat and barley) diet varies with the degree of village autonomy, trade patterns, and the level of the Nile. $/sigma/sp[13]$C values for hair indicate that these long term shifts overlay seasonal scheduling of C3 to C4 crops. $/sigma/sp[15]$N ratios suggest that protein is derived from caprine/cattle pastoralism, combined with C3/C4 plant agriculture. It is hypothesized that a slight, but significant shift in $/sigma/sp[15]$N values over time, may represent artificial and/or flood fertilization. The use of tissues representing different carbon turnover rates allowed reconstruction of long vs. short term diet. It appears that most Nubians died during spring and summer, the most nutritionally and environmentally stressful time of year. There are no sex differences in the consumption of plants for normal or unhealthy individuals. Males, however, have significantly enriched $/sigma/sp[15]$N values, which may be caused by either diet or physiology. The plant component of the diet does not change between age groups, but within individuals some dietary shifting does occur and is probably related to seasonal availability. Weaning age is identified by a trophic level effect in $/sigma/sp[15]$N occurring between ages 2 to 6. Those exhibiting pathology were also dietarily distinct. Iron deficient individuals consumed more C4 plants and were more enriched in $/sigma/sp[15]$N. By contrast, people with osteoporosis do not differ in their plant consumption, but are significantly more enriched in $/sigma/sp[15]$N.
Date Created: 1/4/2007
Department: Department of Anthropology