Activity patterns in the Sahara Desert: An interpretation based on cross-sectional geometric properties



The Garamantian civilization flourished in modern Fezzan, Libya, between 900 BC and 500 AD, during which the aridification of the Sahara was well established. Study of the archaeological remains suggests a population successful at coping with a harsh environment of high and fluctuating temperatures and reduced water and food resources. This study explores the activity patterns of the Garamantes by means of cross-sectional geometric properties. Long bone diaphyseal shape and rigidity are compared between the Garamantes and populations from Egypt and Sudan, namely from the sites of Kerma, el-Badari, and Jebel Moya, to determine whether the Garamantian daily activities were more strenuous than those of other North African populations. Moreover, sexual dimorphism and bilateral asymmetry are assessed at an intra- and inter-population level. The inter-population comparisons showed the Garamantes not to be more robust than the comparative populations, suggesting that the daily Garamantian activities necessary for survival in the Sahara Desert did not generally impose greater loads than those of other North African populations. Sexual dimorphism and bilateral asymmetry in almost all geometric properties of the long limbs were comparatively low among the Garamantes. Only the lower limbs were significantly stronger among males than females, possibly due to higher levels of mobility associated with herding. The lack of systematic bilateral asymmetry in cross-sectional geometric properties may relate to the involvement of the population in bilaterally intensive activities or the lack of regular repetition of unilateral activities. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.