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The prehistoric inhabitants of the Wadi Howar [Elektronische Ressource] : an anthropological study of human skeletal remains from the Sudanese part of the Eastern Sahara / Erik Becker

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The prehistoric inhabitants of the Wadi Howar An anthropological study of human skeletal remains from the Sudanese part of the Eastern Sahara Inauguraldissertation zur Erlangung des Akademischen Grades eines Dr. phil., vorgelegt dem Fachbereich 02 Sozialwissenschaften, Medien und Sport der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz von Erik Becker M.A. aus Darmstadt 2011 Referent: Korreferent: Tag des Prüfungskolloquiums: 9. November 2011 Volume I Abstract 1The prehistoric inhabitants of the Wadi Howar - An anthropological study of 2human skeletal remains from the Sudanese part of the Eastern Sahara All currently available human skeletal remains from the Wadi Howar (Eastern Sahara, Sudan) were th ndemployed in an anthropological study. The study’s first aim was to describe this unique 5 to 2 millennium BCE material, which comprised representatives of all three prehistoric occupation phases of the region. Detecting diachronic differences in robusticity, occupational stress levels and health within the spatially, temporally and culturally heterogeneous sample was its second objective.

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Published 01 January 2011
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The prehistoric inhabitants of the Wadi Howar



An anthropological study of human skeletal remains from the

Sudanese part of the Eastern Sahara









Inauguraldissertation

zur Erlangung des Akademischen Grades

eines Dr. phil.,



vorgelegt dem Fachbereich 02

Sozialwissenschaften, Medien und Sport

der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität

Mainz



von

Erik Becker M.A.

aus Darmstadt



2011
















































Referent:
Korreferent:
Tag des Prüfungskolloquiums: 9. November 2011















Volume I






































Abstract

1The prehistoric inhabitants of the Wadi Howar - An anthropological study of
2human skeletal remains from the Sudanese part of the Eastern Sahara

All currently available human skeletal remains from the Wadi Howar (Eastern Sahara, Sudan) were
th ndemployed in an anthropological study. The study’s first aim was to describe this unique 5 to 2
millennium BCE material, which comprised representatives of all three prehistoric occupation phases of
the region. Detecting diachronic differences in robusticity, occupational stress levels and health within
the spatially, temporally and culturally heterogeneous sample was its second objective. The study’s
third goal was to reveal metric and non-metric affinities between the different parts of the series and
between the Wadi Howar material and other relevant prehistoric as well as modern African populations.
The research strategy adopted to achieve these three aims and to surmount the limitations imposed by
the small size of the sample and the material’s extraordinarily poor state of preservation was to apply
simple, well-established methods to as broad a range of pertinent metric and non-metric traits as
possible.
The reconstruction and comprehensive osteological analysis of 23 as yet unpublished individuals, the
bulk of the Wadi Howar series, constituted the first stage of the study. The analyses focused on each
individual’s in situ position, state of preservation, sex, age at death, living height, living weight,
physique, biological ancestry, epigenetic traits, robusticity, occupational stress markers, health and
metric as well as morphological characteristics. Building on the results of these efforts and the re-
examination of the rest of the material, the Wadi Howar series as a whole, altogether 32 individuals,
could be described. All gathered data were summed up and remarkable observations were highlighted.
The occurrence of unusual in situ positions and post-depositional movements, the widespread and
severe post mortem damage, a number of pseudopathologies, the leptosome physique, the tropically
3adapted body proportions, the long and high Crania , the biologically sub-Saharan nasal morphology,
the marked alveolar prognathism, the strikingly high mandibular symphyses (Symphyses
mandibularum), the extremely large teeth, an Inca bone (Os incae), a large parastyle (Tuberculum
paramolare), a peg-shaped upper third molar (Dens molaris superior III), paranasal as well as
intertrochlear foramina (Foramina paranasalia et intertrochlearia), the antebrachial and femoral shaft
bowing, the interosseous border (Margo interosseus) and pilaster sizes, the cranial and cervical
occupational stress markers, the advanced, anterior, labial, notched, angled and cupped dental wear,
the occupational stress markers of the bones of the pectoral girdle (Cingulum pectorale) and the upper
free extremities (Partes liberae membrorum superiorum), the physiological medullary stenosis of a
number of long bones, the advanced thinning of a frontal bone (Os frontale), patches of small lesions on

1 The term anthropology was employed to refer to the comparative biological science usually called biological or physical
anthropology in English-speaking countries (e.g. Grupe et al. 2005; Hoßfeld 2005: 15-50; Knußmann 1988(a), 1996: 1-6;
Schwidetzky 1988; Susanne 1987).
2 This thesis was written prior to the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. The terms Sudanese and Sudan, by
themselves or in combination with geographic adjectives such as Northern, Southern, Central, etc., were used accordingly.
3 Both anglicised and internationally accepted original Nomina anatomica terms were provided throughout this thesis. Whenever
names coincided only Nomina anatomica terms were given (Federative Committee on Anatomical Terminology 1998; Feneis
1993; Feneis/Dauber 2000).
I the outer surface (Tabula externa) of a parietal bone (Os parietale), an ossified structure on the inner
surface (Tabula interna) of a parietal bone (Os parietale), a parietal bone (Os parietale) with
depressions, the artificial removal of incisors (Dentes incisivi), the common and often pronounced
enamel hypoplasia, a cervical vertebra (Vertebra cervicalis) with osteolytic lesions and the cases of
tooth crowding and crown compression were given special attention in this context.
The attempts to determine the amount of intra-observer error showed that a few differences between
original and control data were significantly different from zero. However, the absolute maximum and
mean differences between the data in question were either negligible or caused by the discrepancies
between laboratory estimates and in situ measurements of long bone lengths. Furthermore, no original
and control data differed significantly or in tendency from each other.
A wide variety of robusticity, occupational stress and health variables was evaluated. The pre-
Leiterband (hunter-gatherer-fisher/hunter-gatherer-fisher-herder) and the Leiterband (herder-gatherer)
data of over a third of these variables differed statistically significantly or in tendency from each other.
The most pronounced diachronic differences were discovered when cranial thickness measurements,
robusticity and stress traits of the occipital region (Regio occipitalis) and the mandible (Mandibula),
combined musculoskeletal stress markers, overall and anterior dental abrasion scores, enamel
hypoplasia data, cortical thickness measurements, shaft bowing and interosseous border (Margo
interosseus) size scores of the bones of the upper free extremities (Partes liberae membrorum
superiorum) and the mean adult ages at death were compared. The Leiterband sub-sample was
characterised by higher enamel hypoplasia frequencies, lower mean ages at death and less
pronounced expressions of occupational stress traits. This pattern was interpreted as evidence that the
adoption and intensification of animal husbandry did probably not constitute reactions to worsening
conditions. Apart from that, the relevant observations, noteworthy tendencies and significant differences
were explained as results of a broader spectrum of pre-Leiterband subsistence activities and the
negative side effects of the increasingly specialised herder-gatherer economy of the Leiterband phase.
Using only the data which could actually be collected from it, multiple, separate, individualised
discriminant function analyses were carried out for each Wadi Howar skeleton to determine which
prehistoric and which modern comparative sample it was most similar to. The results of all individual
analyses were then summarised and examined as a whole. The classification patterns which became
apparent during this process could subsequently be interpreted. Thus it became possible to draw
conclusions about the affinities the Wadi Howar material shared with prehistoric as well as modern
populations and to answer questions concerning the diachronic links between the Wadi Howar’s
prehistoric populations. When the Wadi Howar remains were positioned in the context of the selected
prehistoric (Jebel Sahaba/Tushka, A-Group, Malian Sahara) and modern comparative samples
(Southern Sudan, Chad, Mandinka, Somalis, Haya) in this fashion three main findings emerged. Firstly,
the series as a whole displayed very strong affinities with the prehistoric sample from the Malian Sahara
(Hassi el Abiod, Kobadi, Erg Ine Sakane, etc.) and the modern material from Southern Sudan and, to a
lesser extent, Chad. Secondly, the pre-Leiterband and the Leiterband sub-sample were closer to the
prehistoric Malian as well as the modern Southern Sudanese material than they were to each other.
Thirdly, the group of pre-Leiterband individuals approached the Late Pleistocene sample from Jebel
Sahaba/Tushka under certain circumstances. A theory offering explanations for these findings was
developed. According to this theory, the entire prehistoric population of the Wadi Howar belonged to a
Saharo-Nilotic population complex. The Jebel Sahaba/Tushka population constituted an old Nilotic and
the early population of the Malian Sahara a younger Saharan part of this complex. The A-Group, on the
other hand, was not a Saharo-Nilotic population. The pre-Leiterband groups probably colonised the
Wadi Howar from the east, either during or soon after the original Saharo-Nilotic expansion.
II Consequently, they retained stronger affinities with the Late Pleistocene Jebel Sahaba/Tushka
population from the eastern Saharo-Nilotic periphery. Unlike the pre-Leiterband groups, the Leiterband
people originated somewhere west of the Wadi Howar. They entered the region in the context of a later,
secondary Saharo-Nilotic expansion. In the process, the incoming Leiterband groups absorbed many
members of the Wadi Howar’s older pre-Leiterband population. The increasing aridification of the Wadi
Howar region ultimately forced its prehistoric inhabitants to abandon the wadi. Most of them migrated
south and west. They, or groups closely related to them, were the ancestors of the majority of the Nilo-
Saharan-speaking pastoralists of modern-day Southern Sudan and Eastern Chad.
Finally, a detailed and contextualised report of the undertaken research and its results was produced.
The first part of this report was used to provide an outline of the study and an overview of the relevant
anthropological, archaeological, historical and ethnographic context. The material which formed the
basis of the study and the methods which were employed to analyse it were introduced in the second
part. In the third part, the results of the analyses were summarised. After offering interpretations of the
results, the material, the methods, the results and their interpretations were discussed in the fourth and
final part of the report.




























III


Acknowledgements
I would like to express my gratitude to the Republic of Sudan and its National Corporation for
Antiquities and Museums (NCAM). This project would not have been possible without their kind co-
operation and permission to take the human skeletal remains from the Wadi Howar to Europe.
I gratefully acknowledge that most of this research project was financed through a Marie Curie EST
Research fellowship. I was one of the PhD fellows of the PALAEO (PALaeoecology, Archaeology and
Evolutionary Origins) training centre at the University of York. The PALAEO centre was funded by the
European Commission (Marie Curie Actions Sixth Framework Programme; Grant Number: MEST-CT-
2005-020601). I particularly thank Prof. Dr. T. O’Connor, Prof. Dr. M. Collins, Prof. Dr. P. O’Higgins
and Dr. N. Milner in this context. The early stages of the project were partly funded through two short-
term contracts with the University of Cologne’s A2 project (Wadi Howar. Settlement Area and
Thoroughfare at the Southern Margin of the Libyan Desert) of the DFG-funded, interdisciplinary
research centre ACACIA (Arid Climate Adaptation and Cultural Innovation in Africa, SFB 389).
I am grateful to Dr. F. Jesse for including me in the 2003 and 2006 A2 field teams, for entrusting me
with the osteological analysis of the human skeletal remains from the Wadi Howar and for all her help
over the years. The expert knowledge and enjoyable company of A. Ahmed, E. Fäder M.A., F.
Godhoff M.A., Dr. A. Gundelwein, Dr. D. Haberlah, Dr. F. Jesse, Dr. M. Lange, Dr. C. Mischka, Dr. N.
Pöllath, M. Ali El Teyeb and A. Willmy M.A. was much appreciated during the fieldwork in 2003 and
2006. The archaeological advice offered by my excavation partner, F. Godhoff M.A., was especially
welcomed.
Dr. O. Dutour and Dr. Y. Ardagna (Service d'Anthropologie Biologique, Université de la
Méditerrannée), Dr. P. Mennecier, L. Huet, A. Fort and V. Laborde (Département Hommes, Natures et
Sociétés, Musée de l’Homme), Prof. Dr. M. Besse and Dr. G. Perréard (Département d’Anthropologie
et d’Écologie, Université de Genève), Prof. Dr. N. Lynnerup (Antropologisk Laboratorium, Panum
Instituttet, Københavns Universitet), Dr. M. Lange (Seminar für Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte
Nordostafrikas, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Dr. M. Mirazón Lahr and Dr. M. Okumura (Duckworth
Laboratory, LCHES, University of Cambridge), Dr. D. Welsby, Dr. R. Friedman and Dr. V. Davies
(Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum) and Dr. V. Rondot (Section Française de
la Direction des Antiquités du Soudan, SFDAS) granted access to skeletal series and/or gave
assistance during the collection of the comparative data.
The tremendously informative isotope analyses of the Wadi Howar sample carried out by Dipl.-Biol. B.
Schmitz and Prof. Dr. G. Grupe undoubtedly deserve to be mentioned. Dr. C. Dürrwächter needs to be
thanked for letting me stay in her flat during the collection of the control data for the intra-observer
error analyses. I am grateful to Prof. Dr. Dr. M. Schultz for analysing a number of Wadi Howar
samples histologically and, thereby, making two very interesting palaeopathological diagnoses. I thank
Prof. Dr. D. Brothwell. He offered much appreciated palaeopathological and academic advice. Dr. I.
Tharp was of great help. His statistical contribution formed part of the basis upon which an important
methodological decision was taken.
IV Dr. V. Černý, Prof. Dr. G. Dimmendaal, Dr. D. Edwards, Prof. Dr. C. Ehret, Prof. Dr. J. Irish, Dr. F.
Jesse, PD Dr. B. Keding, Dr. M. Mirazón Lahr, Prof. Dr. D. Lange, Dr. M. Lange, Dr. N. Milner, Prof.
Dr. P. O’Higgins, Dr. N. Pöllath and Prof. Dr. A. Smith supported the project by making helpful
comments and/or making relevant publications available to me.
I thank Dr. F. Darius, Dr. S. Darius-Nußbaum, Prof. Dr. G. Dimmendaal, Prof. Dr. G. Grupe, Dr. A.
Gundelwein, Dr. D. Haberlah, Dr. F. Jesse, PD Dr. B. Keding, Dr. S. Kröpelin, Dr. C. Mischka, Dipl.-
Biol. B. Schmitz, Dr. W. Schuck and ACACIA (SFB 389, Forschungsstelle Afrika, University of
Cologne) for giving me permission to use their photographs and/or illustrations in this thesis.
I would like to extend my thanks to Prof. Dr. H. Hemmer, Prof. Dr. G. Grupe and Prof. Dr. R.
Kastenholz for kindly agreeing to act as additional examiners. I am grateful for the, often much
needed, support provided by my second supervisor, Prof. Dr. J. Burger. I owe Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. W.
Henke special gratitude. Prof. Henke has been my main academic teacher, supervisor and mentor. I
am deeply indebted to him in many ways.
My friend Johannes Laub helped me to tackle various logistical problems ahead of the submission of
this thesis. I am particularly thankful for the great tolerance and patience my partner, Helena Ribeiro,
has shown during the last four and a half years. Without her, I would probably not have been able to
finish this project. Lastly, I thank my mother, Brigitte Roth, and her husband, Hans Dieter Roth. They
have made it possible for me to study anthropology.























V CONTENTS OVERVIEW

Volume I

Abstract I

I. Introduction 1
Chapter synopsis
I.A. General introduction 3
I.B. Outline 4
I.B.1. Research objectives 4
I.B.2. Research strategy 6
I.C. The Wadi Howar 7
I.C.1. The region
I.C.2. Research history 10
I.C.3. Archaeological context 1
I.C.3.a. Occupation phases 12
I.C.3.b. Sites 19
I.C.4. Previous anthropological work 24
I.C.4.a. Osteological studies
I.C.4.b. Other studies 25
I.D. Broader context 27
I.D.1. Anthropological background 7
I.D.1.a. Osteological studies7
I.D.1.b. Isotope analyses 36
I.D.1.c. DNA analyses 37
I.D.2. Relevant indirect evidence 41
I.D.2.a. Linguistic studies
I.D.2.b. Rock art 48
I.D.2.c. Historical sources 52
I.D.2.d. Ethnographic sources 6
II. Material 77
Chapter synopsis 77
II.A. The Wadi Howar sample 77
II.B. Comparative samples 7
II.B.1. Prehistoric samples 7
II.B.2. Modern samples 81
VI III. Methods 84
Chapter synopsis 4
III.A. Individual osteological analyses 86
III.B. Group analyses 101
III.B.1. Data collection
III.B.2. Data analysis 122
III.B.2.a. Description of the sample 123
III.B.2.b. Intra-observer error 124
III.B.2.c. Diachronic differences 127
III.B.2.d. Metric and non-metric affinities 128
IV. Results 145
Chapter synopsis
IV.A. Description of the sample 146
IV.A.1. In situ position 155
IV.A.2. Preservation 156
IV.A.3. Measurements 158
IV.A.4. Sex 160
IV.A.5. Age 161
IV.A.6. Height
IV.A.7. Weight 162
IV.A.8. Physique 162
IV.A.9. Biological ancestry 162
IV.A.10. Epigenetic traits 172
IV.A.11. Robusticity 174
IV.A.12. Occupational stress 176
IV.A.13. Health 184
IV.A.14. Remarks 189
IV.B. Intra-observer error 190
IV.C. Diachronic differences 191
IV.D. Metric and non-metric affinities 193

V. Discussion 200
Chapter synopsis
V.A. Material 206
V.A.1. The Wadi Howar sample 206
V.A.2. Comparative samples 207


VII