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date: 06 December 2023

Bioarchaeology in the Nile Valleylocked

Bioarchaeology in the Nile Valleylocked

  • Jenail H. MarshallJenail H. MarshallAnthropology, Purdue University
  •  and Michele BuzonMichele BuzonAnthropology, Purdue University


Bioarchaeology is the study of human remains within their archaeological and mortuary contexts. Bioarchaeologists use skeletal biology, mortuary practices, and the archaeological record to answer questions about past populations’ lives and lifestyles. The term Nile Valley defines a geographic region of Egypt and Nubia, the latter encompassing the region between the First Cataract at Aswan, Egypt, and the Sixth Cataract just north of Khartoum, Sudan. Spanning the Nile River area, it is sometimes referred to in its two parts, according to the river’s flow, from south to north, Lower Nubia in the north and Upper Nubia in the south. In Egypt, that is Upper Egypt in the south and Lower Egypt in the north. For over a century, the region has had many campaigns and salvage projects that have led to the excavation of thousands of skeletal remains from ancient Nile Valley sites.

Analyses of these collections have provided important information about the people and their health, patterning disease and trauma, diet, and biological relationships. Early morphological research on the skeletal remains of the people who once lived in ancient Nubia was dominated by biased interpretations stemming from racist paradigms in the early 19th century that included racial typologies. Moving beyond these perspectives, contemporary research on the ancient Nile Valley has expanded methodological and theoretical advancements in bioarchaeology more broadly.

The integration of bioarchaeology in the larger context of archaeological projects provides a wealth of information that includes but is not limited to health, disease, identity, nutrition, life experiences, and demographic patterns. Likewise, how archaeology is conducted in the region is shifting and highlights a move toward decolonial and ethical practices within the discipline, including involvement with the local communities.


  • Archaeology
  • Biological Anthropology

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