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Baltimore, MD (virtual)


Background: Umm an-Nar (2700-2000 BCE) communal tombs from southeastern Arabia contain human skeletal remains characterized by extensive commingling and variable degrees of burning. Because of this, few bioarchaeological studies have been conducted examining the proportions of males to females in these monumental tombs. We hypothesized that increased social stratification in the late Umm an-Nar period would lead to a higher number of males interred in Umm an-Nar tombs over time.

Methods: To estimate sex, we measured four features of the distal humeri from tombs Unar 1 (2400-2200 BCE) and Unar 2 (2300-2100 BCE). Heat-induced changes to bone from cremation were also assessed using the Munsell Soil Color Book due to the possibility that shrinkage and warping might affect measurements.

Results: Techniques designed for evaluating sex for burned and unburned humeri resulted in frequencies of 37.5-47.1% male and 35.3-37.5% female for Unar 1, and 50.6-59.2% male and 34.7-39.2% female for Unar 2. Our results showed no significant difference (X²=0.06, df=1, p=0.81) in the proportions of males and females between the tombs. Additionally, there was no significant difference in the proportion of calcined to uncalcined bones between Unar 1 (46.3% calcined) and Unar 2 (62.2%) (X²=2.12, df=1, p=0.15).

Conclusion: Our results did not support the hypothesis that increasing social stratification in the latter part of the Umm an-Nar period led to the interment of a higher number of males over time; this could indicate that social stratification was important for the living, but was intentionally limited in mortuary contexts.

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


Biological and Physical Anthropology


An Examination of Sex Distributions in Umm an-Nar Tombs from Bronze Age Arabia using the Distal Humerus