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Denver, CO


Background: The Umm an-Nar period (ca. 2700-2000 BCE) in southeastern Arabia was marked by the intensification of oasis agriculture and a corresponding shift to sedentism. Cribra orbitalia lesions from tombs Unar 1 and Unar 2 (Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, UAE) were observed for rates of nonspecific stress during this period of transition. We hypothesized that due to increased reliance on agriculture beginning around 2200 BCE, Unar 1 individuals would have a higher prevalence of active cribra orbitalia.

Methods: Given the commingled and fragmentary nature of these collections, we first scored percentage of orbit present in 25% increments. Scorable orbits (defined as ≥25%) were then evaluated as present or absent for cribra orbitalia and scored for severity and healing.

Results: There was no statistically significant differences in rates of cribra orbitalia between tombs (2=0.02, df=1, p=0.89), nor for measures of severity (2=0.59, df=2, p=0.74). However, a statistically significant difference was found between tombs for degree of healing for the left orbit (Fisher’s Exact; p=0.0004, df=3), with individuals from Unar 1 (69%) exhibiting higher rates of healing compared to Unar 2 (14%). Stable resource accumulation from oasis agriculture and herding coupled with enhanced interregional trade may explain this difference.

Conclusion: Our results suggest frequency and severity of cribra orbitalia did not change over time, despite archaeological evidence for agricultural intensification in the latter third millennium, and that later individuals possessed improved healing of these lesions. This indicates that local inhabitants of this region were able to adapt successfully without negatively impacting their health.

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


Biological and Physical Anthropology


Analyzing the Prevalence and Severity of Cribra Orbitalia in Bronze Age Arabia