Download Full Text (988 KB)


Baltimore, MD (virtual)


Background: The Umm an-Nar period (2700-2000 BCE) was a time of rapid transformation within the Oman Peninsula, characterized by changes in mortuary practices, agriculture, and settlement. Located in the United Arab Emirates, Unar 1 (2400-2200 BCE) and Unar 2 (2300-2100 BCE) are two large Umm an-Nar tombs that held commingled, fragmented remains, posing a challenge in determining the minimum number of individuals (MNI). Based on the larger size of Unar 2, we hypothesized that the number of interred individuals would increase over time.

Methods: MNI was calculated using the zonation and landmark methods for the mandible. MNI and tomb size of Unar 1 and 2 were also compared to six other Umm an-Nar tombs in the region.

Results: The mental spines from the landmark method provided the highest MNI for both Unar 1 (n=101) and Unar 2 (n=290). While the zonation method generated a lower MNI for Unar 1 (n=86) and Unar 2 (n=263), both methods resulted in a statistically similar MNI within each tomb (X2=0.08, df=1, p=0.78). Regionally, no association between Umm an-Nar tomb size and MNI was found (Spearman’s r = 0.048, p=0.91).

Conclusions: Although both tombs were used for roughly 200 years, their different MNI counts suggest that over time, more individuals within the community were permitted access to the larger Unar 2 tomb. The comparison of tomb diameter and MNI revealed that tomb size was not simply a function of the number of people interred for Umm an-Nar communities, but instead perhaps had some social meaning.

Funding statement: This research was funded by a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Award (#1852426).


Biological and Physical Anthropology


Counting Chins to Count People: Determining MNI for Umm an-Nar Tombs from Mandibular Fragments