Institute of Archaeology
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Valentina Bernardi

Impact of agricultural intensification and population expansion on the health, growth, and disease of the Post-Meroitic and Late Medieval Upper Nubian populations

During the Post-Meroitic and early medieval periods, Ancient Nubia experienced an agricultural intensification due to the introduction of the saqia (water wheel) and the introduction of new crops; concurrent with the agricultural intensification there was also a population expansion.

The aim of the project is to assess the impact of agricultural intensification, food diversification and population expansion on the health and growth of the Upper Nubian population, and how the effects of these varied between the different social strata. With the introduction of the saqia and new crops, fields were cultivated all year round, causing a considerable increase in time and work people had to spend caring for the fields and processing the harvests. The project aims to analyse the evidence for activity-related stress markers to assess how the increased amount of work impacted on the physiology of the population. Within the assemblages selected for this research there are at least two groups which are known to belong to different social status; these will be used to study how the different levels of society were affected by the increased work load and if there was any difference in access to food resources. Three of the assemblages have also undergone isotopic analysis (in an independent study) and will provide important clues about changes in the diet of these populations.

In order to understand how agricultural intensification, the introduction of new crops, and an increasing population impacted the Upper Nubians, this project will analyse the skeletal, cranial and dental development, stature, and disease load of four skeletal assemblages from Upper Nubia. These assemblages cover the historic period immediately before (Meroitic), and the periods during and after these developments took place (Post-Meroitic and Medieval respectively).

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Supervisors

 Educational background

  • BA Egyptian Archaeology UCL, 2008.
  • MSc Skeletal and Dental Bioarchaeology, UCL, 2009.
  • Bis pelvis fused to the sacrum
  • Osteoarthritis on a vertebral facet
  • End plate fracture on two thoracic vertebrae

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