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Human Remains Offer New Information on Ancient Lives

Thursday, March 27, 2014


CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Teams of scientists have been analyzing skeletal material of people who lived in the Sahara Desert and other parts of Africa as long as 8,000 years ago. Ronika Power and Marta Mirazon Lahr of the Leverhulme Center for Human Evolutionary Studies at Cambridge University, and Tamsin O’Connell from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research are focusing on individuals who lived in pre-Dynastic Egypt. David Mattingly of the University of Leicester is studying skeletons from the farmers and traders of the Garamantes civilization, who lived in the Sahara from 1000 B.C. to 1500 A.D. Isotope levels from tooth enamel indicate where an individual grew up, and isotopes from bones reveal where a person had been living in the last ten years before death. “Discontinuities between what the teeth tell us and what the bones tell us may provide evidence that the individual migrated. This in turn opens up questions about the interconnectedness of peoples—the movement of individuals, ideas, knowledge, and material culture at very early stages of civilization,” Power told Phys.org. “Did they adopt the customs of their hosts or did they maintain their immigrant identity?” she asked.