Temporal variation in prehistoric Nubian crania

Temporal variation in prehistoric Nubian crania
David S. Carlson
Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
Much of the earlier work on the prehistory of Sudanese Nubia has emphasized discontinuity between early Nubian populations. However, recent investigations suggest the converse – that a remarkable degree of cultural and biological continuity exists among indigenous Nubian groups, perhaps as far back as the Paleolithic. Thus, cultural and biological differences between Nubian populations can be most effectively perceived as the result of in situ evolutionary development.
The present analysis has two major purposes: (1) to describe the morphological differences in the craniofacial complex between indigenous Nubian populations extending from the A-Group (c. 3,400 B.C.) through the Christian (c. 1,500 A.D.) horizons; and (2) to account for these differences within an evolutionary framework. The multiple discriminant analysis of radiographically derived variables revealed a trend from a substantially lower and more elongated cranial vault to a shorter and taller vault throughout the almost 5,000 year time span. Associated with this pattern was a tendency for the face to become more inferiorly-posteriorly located with respect to the vault in the latter groups. Finally, the masseter and temporalis muscles underwent a reduction and slight relocation through time. We speculate that this trend may be associated with behavioral changes associated with transition from a hunting and gathering to a totally agricultural subsistence pattern.


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