Estimating Age from Fetal and Young Nonadults from Basilar Portions at Umm an-Nar Tombs from the UAE
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Background: The Umm an-Nar period (2700-2000 BCE) was a time of significant change in southeastern Arabia, prompted by agricultural shifts and seen in shifting social and mortuary practices. Communal tombs Unar 1 and Unar 2 from the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah (United Arab Emirates), which date to the end of the third millennium BCE, contained commingled, cremated, and fragmented skeletons, a common mortuary pattern in this period.
Methods: Unfused basilar portions of nonadult occipital bones were examined to assess tomb membership and inclusion of young individuals. Three methods were used to analyze age, and measurements taken included sagittal length and maximum width. Regression formulae and equation tables were applied to find an estimated age range of fetal and nonadult bones up to 3 years of age. The age estimates generated by these different methods were then compared.
Results: Various methods produced different age ranges for basilar portions in both tombs, with estimates indicating that between 20-50% were fetal in age. This is similar to other sites in the same time period. Due to our small sample size (n=11) of intact basilar portions, demographics between Unar 1 and 2 could not be statistically compared.
Conclusion: This research showed that fetuses were allowed interment alongside other nonadults and adults in both tombs. Nevertheless, varying age estimations produced by different methods suggest that more research is needed on basilar age estimation before these results can be reliably applied to bioarchaeological contexts.
Funding Statement: This research has been funded through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program (Award #1852426).
Biological and Physical Anthropology
Orkin, Rachael; Berends, Christian; Gregoricka, Lesley A.; and Ullinger, Jaime M., "Estimating Age from Fetal and Young Nonadults from Basilar Portions at Umm an-Nar Tombs from the UAE" (2022). Year 2: AABA 2022 – Denver, CO. 3.