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Baltimore, MD (virtual)


Background: The Umm an-Nar period (2700-2000 BCE) in the United Arab Emirates was marked by the appearance of settlements, oasis agriculture, and fortification towers, suggesting increasing stratification. Conversely, mortuary practices indicate equality based on commingling of community members. Based on other tombs in the region, it was hypothesized that sex ratios would not differ between tombs Unar 1 (U1; 2400-2200 BCE) and Unar 2 (U2; 2300-2100 BCE).

Methods: Sex was estimated using robusticity of the mastoid process and the lateral angle of the internal auditory meatus for the temporal bone. As cremation was part of the mortuary ritual and could affect bone morphology, the Munsell Soil Color Book was used to identify bone color.

Results: Results indicated no significant difference (Fisher’s Exact: p > 0.05) in sex ratios between U1 (15% male, 65% female, 20% indeterminate) and U2 (16% male, 70% female, 14% indeterminate) for the mastoid process. However, more females were in both tombs, unlike more equitable sex distributions in nearby tombs. On the other hand, the lateral angle method estimated a greater percentage of males (U1: 30%, U2: 36%). Concordance between methods was relatively similar when looking at burned and unburned bone (Fisher’s Exact: p > 0.05), suggesting cremation practices did not affect sex estimation techniques.

Conclusion: These outcomes suggest the mastoid process may not be the best sex estimation method for this population; the lateral angle method may be more accurate. Moreover, the surplus of females in both tombs may allude to the maintenance of gender stratification over time.

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


Biological and Physical Anthropology


Sex Estimation for Early Bronze Age Arabian Tombs using the Temporal Bone