Abstract

How the very latest scientific investigations of teeth are able to shed new perspectives on ancient Egyptian culture
Roger Forshaw (Manchester University)

Visual and radiographic examinations of teeth have long provided information about diet and dental disease in ancient Egypt. Today the range of analytical techniques that are now available to analyse teeth is diverse and expanding.

DNA extracted from teeth provides information on kinship/biological relationships and population history. This technique involves partial destruction of rare archaeological specimens but now DNA is able to be obtained from calculus adhering to the surface of teeth.

An increase in the value of oxygen and strontium isotope compositions in the teeth of ancient Egyptians, who lived from 5500 - 1500 BC, reflects the onset and continuing evolution of an arid tropical climate in Northeast Africa.

The measurement of stable isotope compositions of carbonate and phosphate in fish teeth from the Levant has identified them as coming from Egypt’s Mediterranean Sea coast. These results provide new insights into Egypto-Canaanite trade connections during the Late Bronze Age.


Critical review of evidence for population history in ancient Egypt: from morphometrics to aDNA
Sonia Zakrzewski (University of Southampton) and Shomarka Keita (Smithsonian Institution)

Ancient Egyptian population history has been approached with different methodologies. Ancient DNA (aDNA) is the newest, and genetics results have been well publicized in the media and literature. Using a small sample of whole genomes (n=3) and mtDNA from different eras (n=90), from a single northern site, Schuenemann et al. (2017) using basically an unstated racial interpretive model, suggest that ancient Egyptians shared genetic identities with Near Easterners. Post-pharaonic Egyptians were reported to have increased “sub-Saharan” genes. aDNA studies of different individuals and DNA of living Egyptians show the expected complex biological history of a cross-roads region. Despite the complex population history of modern northern Africans (Fregel et al. 2018), and the invalidity of the race construct, uncritical analyses of Egyptians has occurred in many genetic studies. This paper considers Nile Valley population studies, in terms of the longue durée, bioarchaeology, isotopic analysis, archaeological evidence, and models integrating evolutionary theory.


Conspicuous Consumption: Tuberculosis, Health, and the History of Egyptology
Kathleen Sheppard (Missouri University)

The fresh, dry desert air drew travellers to Egypt as much as ancient monuments did, from the earliest days of Roman occupation. Later on, wealthier nineteenth and twentieth century travellers continued the well-known tradition of taking the airs in Egypt and, frequently, those who took the airs also took interest in the antiquities. Margaret Benson’s travelled to Egypt attempting to soothe her burning lungs and became the first woman to receive permission to excavate. E. Harold Jones’ arrival in Egypt as a lung tripper, looking for relief from tuberculosis symptoms, marked the beginning of a short but important career, excavating and drawing for Theodore Davis and Emma Andrews. This paper argues that their work was possible because of their debilitating health, and sets the context for a broader discussion about the history of the practice of Egyptology and how the foundation of the discipline was built.


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