Functional analysis of the true pelvis (defined as that portion lying below and including the pelvic brim) was undertaken on a sample of 36 females from the Medieval site of Kulubnarti in Sudanese Nubia. Standard obstetric measurements were taken and compared to four additional prehistoric skeletal samples and to modern American standards for the same obstetric dimensions. Relative to the other prehistoric populations, the Kulubnarti pelves are smaller in most dimensions and, when compared to modern American standards, from one-third to one-half would be diagnosed as contracted in one or more planes.
Given the meager, fluctuating resources of these Medieval Nubians' harsh desert environment, pelvic size reduction is a likely result of body size reduction as one biological response to nutritional stress (Mittler and Van Gerven, 1989; Moore et al., 1986; Van Gerven et al., 1981). It is argued, however, that size reduction created a high potential for either maternal-neonatal morbidity and mortality due to fetopelvic disproportion or neonatal loss due to low birth weight. In either case, it is suggested that the Kulubnarti population paid a significant biological price for this aspect of size reduction. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.