The ancient inhabitants of Jebel Moya redux: measures of population affinity based on dental morphology



This paper reexamines some of the methods and craniometric findings in the classic volume The Ancient Inhabitants of Jebel Moya (Sudan) (1955) by Mukherjee, Rao & Trevor, in light of recent archaeological data and relative to a new dental morphological study. Archaeological evidence characterises these inhabitants as having been heavily influenced by outside sources; yet they managed to establish and maintain their own distinctive culture as seen in the site features and surviving artefact collections. The dental study, modelled after the original craniometric-based investigation and using the same or similar comparative samples, detected complementary indications of outside biological influence. In the study, up to 36 dental traits were recorded in a total of 19 African samples. The most influential traits in driving inter-sample variation were then identified, and phenetic affinities were calculated using the Mahalanobis D2 statistic for non-metric traits. If phenetic similarity provides an estimate of genetic relatedness, these affinities, like the original craniometric findings, suggest that the Jebel Moyans exhibited a mosaic of features that are reminiscent of, yet distinct from, both sub-Saharan and North African peoples. Together, these different lines of evidence correspond to portray the Jebel Moya populace as a uniform, although distinct, biocultural amalgam. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.