Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Corruccini, Robert

Second Advisor

Shimada, Izumi


Cultural adaptations to environment can result in certain biological changes in individuals (Kennedy, 1989; Jurmain, 1999). Some of these changes can affect the human skeleton and leave markers pointing to patterns of habitual behavior or general level of workload stress placed on the body. This study assesses the variation in workload caused by environmental and cultural differences of three contemporaneous Nubian groups of the Kerma era (2,500-1,500BC) in ancient Nubia. The skeletal samples used here are from three contemporaneous ancient Nubian groups who lived during this period. The Kerma Collection represents a population from the urban capital city of Kerma in Upper Nubia (1,750-1,500BC; n=216), the collection of the Northern Dongola Reach Survey (NDRS) represents a rural population located 70km south of the Kerma city in Upper Nubia (2,500-1,750BC; n=48), and the C-Group collection represents a subsistence based society from the area of Lower Nubia (2,000-1,600BC; n=109). The rural and urban groups were located in the fertile area of Sudan known as the Dongola Reach and the subsistence based society occupied the more rugged, desert-like terrain outside of the Dongola Reach. Behavioral reconstruction markers entheseal changes (EC), workload trauma, and degenerative joint disease (DJD) were employed in order to attain broader answers of how Homo sapiens from the same civilization cope with varying environments. Results suggest that the subsistence based population (C-Group) experienced the least amount of workload stress, suggesting increase in workload with an increase in agricultural intensity/social complexity, as both the urban and rural populations had much more intensive agriculture and were more socially complex than the subsistence based population. This increase in workload with the advent of agriculture (Cohen and Armelagos, 1984; Goodman et al., 1984; Larsen, 1995) and with increase in social complexity (Zabecki, 2009) has been suggested in prior studies with other populations and this is seen here. Furthermore, though sex differences concerning pattern of behavior are clearer in the C-Group suggesting fewer habitual activities due to a less complex society (as suggested by Petersen, 1998; Eshed et al., 2004), similar behavior differences between sexes were still somewhat visible in the urban and rural populations. This suggests that some cultural traits remain constant in the Nubian culture despite environment or level of social complexity. The Kerma city and NDRS collections are, in general, highly stressed when compared to the C-Group or contemporaneous populations, irrespective of which marker is assessed. This may be due to the intensive agriculture practiced or the threat of attack from other populations forcing strenuous construction and fortification efforts of settlements. Juvenile remains, which are traditionally excluded from behavior studies, displayed lesions on several areas of the skeleton which may suggest heavy workload. This study builds on previous information known about the people of the Kerma era and gains a clearer perspective of how these populations lived their lives from day to day. These data can be used to continue investigation into ways in which environment and culture affect human biology and, in turn, the human skeleton.




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