Bioarchaeological Analysis of Cultural Transition in the Southern Levant Using Dental Nonmetric Traits

Bioarchaeological Analysis of Cultural Transition in the Southern Levant Using Dental Nonmetric Traits

To many Near Eastern archaeologists, the Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age transition in the southern Levant indicates the emergence of a new ethnicity. The question remains, however, whether changes in the material culture are the result of an invasion of foreigners, or instead arose from shifting cultural and technical practices by indigenous peoples. This study utilized dental morphological traits to assess phenetic relationships between the Late Bronze Age site of Dothan (1500-1100 BC) and the Iron Age II site of Lachish (Tell edDuweir, 701 BC). Information on 30 dental crown and root traits was collected for 4,412 teeth, representing 392 individuals from Lachish and a minimum of 121 individuals from Dothan, using the Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System. Seventeen traits from Dothan and Lachish were compared with dentitions from a Byzantine Jerusalem monastery, Iron Age Italy, a Natufian group (early agrarians from the Levant), and a Middle Kingdom Egyptian site using C.A.B. Smith’s mean measure of divergence statistic. The findings suggest that there are more similarities between Dothan and Lachish than either of them and other sites. This analysis indicates that the material culture changes were not the result of a foreign invasion. Rather, the Iron Age people of the southern Levant were related to their Bronze Age predecessors.

A study of teeth, with some interesting insights into other past papers on it..

The first report on the Lachish skulls included a thorough examination of pathology, metrics, artifi-cial deformation, and epigenetic affinity. Utilizing craniometrics, Risdon (1939) concluded that the group was very similar to dynastic Egyptian material. In fact, he stated that the entire population was of foreign origin, representing descendants of a group derived primarily from Upper Egypt. This conclusion was subsequently supported by a craniometric study by Musgrave and Evans (1981). Keita (1988, p. 377) likewise examined the skulls metrically, omitting those that were either “artificially deformed, female, warped, split, [or] juvenile,” using only those measurements that he believed were consistent population discriminators. He concluded that the group was fairly heterogeneous, having close relationships to North African, Egyptian, and Nubian groups, thus lending support to an “Egypto-Nubian presence” (Keita, 1988, p. 388).

One of the first to oppose the idea of an Egyptian origin was Keith (1940), who felt that the Lachish inhabitants were markedly different from Egyptians, though his analysis was rather anecdotal. Others have since concurred, arguing that the people of Lachish were indigenous, closely related to pre-Middle Bronze Age skeletons in Palestine and the modernday Bedouin (Arensburg, 1973; Arensburg et al.1980; Smith, 1995). Arensburg (1982) further stated that although Egypt and Mesopotamia were very influential culturally, they made no biological contribution to the Levant at all. Giles (1953) conducted a craniometric examination of the Bronze Age skulls at
Lachish excavated after the initial study of Risdon (1939), and established that the crania were most likely from the same population as the Iron Age people studied by Risdon (1939). Berry and Berry (1972), utilizing nonmetric cranial features, likewise, found that the Lachish series was quite distinct from Egyptian collections dating to the Predynastic, Middle Kingdom, and Late Periods.

Other than the immediate observation that Egyptians seem to be very similar to their Levantine neighbours? It suggests that Keita’s methods are a bit questionable if these people are coming up as Nubian. I’ll have a look for the paper in question, ‘An analysis of crania from Tell-Duweir’. The overall conclusion of this paper is that ” The results of this dental morphology study indicate biological continuity in the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age transition in the southern Levant,” and not an Egyptian/Nubian origin for them. Which is supported by the DNA, no big population movements in that direction as far as I know.


One response to “Bioarchaeological Analysis of Cultural Transition in the Southern Levant Using Dental Nonmetric Traits

  1. I found your site on Google and read a few of your other entires. Nice Stuff. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

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