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Keywords:

  • non-metric traits;
  • Mahalanobis D2;
  • Meroitic

Abstract

Scholars have identified a hiatus in the archaeological record of Lower Nubia that spans approximately 1000 years. This interval may represent a desertion of Lower Nubia by its inhabitants. Evidence of occupation did not reappear in the area until the Meroitic time period. However, the identity of the returning people has been the subject of speculation. In order to determine who the Meroites of Lower Nubia were, 20 cranial non-metric traits were observed on six Nubian groups, representing five time periods. Two groups date to time periods immediately before (Kerma) and immediately after (X-Group) the Meroitic period. Three additional Nubian groups (two Christian samples from different sites and Sesebi, a contemporary sample) were utilised as outgroups to elucidate a clearer picture of the relationship among the six samples. Mahalanobis D2 with a tetrachoric matrix was employed for calculating biological distances among the groups. Principal coordinates analysis produced two clusters of Nubians, where the Meroitics clustered with other Nubian groups. Specific distance scores indicate the Meroites were biologically similar to individuals from the time periods prior to and after their arrival in Lower Nubia. The Meroites therefore appear to be a Nubian group returning to Lower Nubia after its desertion. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.