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Umm an-Nar (2700-2000 BCE) tombs in the United Arab Emirates contained the commingled remains of hundreds of individuals interred across multiple generations. Archaeologists commonly reference tomb demographics as being inclusive of all ages, but this assumption is based on a handful of studies that rarely distinguish age categories beyond “subadult” or “adult.” An undergraduate research training program sought to examine age distributions – and thus inclusivity in tomb membership – in greater detail, with a particular focus on fetal and older adult age categories.

A combination of traditional and novel aging techniques were applied to bones from tombs Unar 1 (U1; MNI = 194) and 2 (U2; MNI = 410) at Shimal. Transition Analysis 3 scores for the femur, humerus, and pubic symphysis revealed older age categories not previously recognized in the region, with means ranging from 40.4-47.8 years, contrasting with an average of 31 years produced by Suchey-Brooks. Measurements identified fetuses and perinates in both tombs using the basilar (U1: 5; U2: 10), petrous (U1 left: 29; U2 right: 33), and distal femur (U1 left: 5; U2 left: 11), some as young as 20-22 fetal weeks. MicroCT scans of suspected fetal humeri (U1: 10; U2: 14) revealed a lack of bioerosion, confirming that stillborn infants were permitted access to tombs. These data substantiate the presence of very young and older adults in both tombs, and demonstrate that despite subsistence and environmental changes tied to increasing social stratification during this period, no age group was separated from the larger community in death.


Biological and Physical Anthropology


Age and Inclusivity in Umm an-Nar Communal Tombs from Southeastern Arabia