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Racial History and bio-cultural adaptation of Nubian archaeological populations

  • Dennis P. Van Gerven, David S. Carlson and George J. Armelagos

A principal role of the physical anthropologist has been the analysis of the human skeleton. Such analysis has traditionally utilized similarities in skeletal morphology and, in some instances, hypothetical racial affinities, to establish the biological relationships between populations. Established biological relationships are then assumed to reflect cultural affinities. As a result of this approach to the skeletal remains of Nubian populations, the culture history of Nubia has been explained in terms of type, hybridization, and atavism, rather than the more biologically and culturally meaningful units of variation, evolution and development. Our analysis of skeletal remains associated with Meroitic, X-Group and Christian cultural horizons in Sudanese Nubia has emphasized a bio-cultural approach to detectable patterns of mortality, skeletal growth and pathology. Rather than seeking to reconstruct cultural history from such biological evidence, this approach utilizes independently established evidence of culural adaptation as the principal environmental context within which these biological processes occur. From this conceptual framework, it becomes possible to gain new insight into the biological and cultural dynamics of variation, evolution and development within the Nubian corridor.

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The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
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