Bolster et al. 2023 AJBA

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Brief Communication: Estimating adult age categories in commingled skeletons with Transition Analysis 3


Objectives We estimate adult age distributions from Unar 1 and Unar 2, two late Umm an-Nar (2400-2100 BCE) tombs in the modern-day Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. These collective tombseach contained hundreds of skeletons in commingled, fragmented, and variably cremated states. Previous studies placed the vast majority of this mortuary community in a generalized “adult” category, as have most analyses of similar tombs from this period. We sought to test how adult age estimation methods compare in identifying young, middle, and old age individuals in commingled assemblages.

Materials and Methods We employed Transition Analysis 3 (TA3) and traditional age estimation methods to generate adult age distributions for each tomb. We compared these distributions between tomb contexts as well as by method.

Results Unar 1 and Unar 2 had similar adult age distributions within each method, but TA3 age distributions included significantly more middle and older adult individuals than those generated by traditional methods.

Discussion These results support findings of earlier iterations of Transition Analysis in regard to sensitivity in old adult age estimation, compared to traditional methods. Our findings indicate a potential use of TA3 in reconstructing age distributions and mortality profiles in commingled skeletal assemblages. Increasing our understanding of everyday life in the distant past necessitates better understandings of adult age, and here, we illustrate how age estimation method choice significantly changes bioarchaeological interpretations of aging in Bronze Age Arabia.

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