The research conducted for this thesis utilized stable isotope analysis to reconstruct the diet of 35 individuals from an elite Meroitic (350 BC – 300 AD) cemetery (site 8.B.5A) located on Sai Island, Sudan, with a focus on adult age categories and biological sex, to understand intraclass variation in diet. Stable carbon and nitrogen values from human bone collagen were used to understand elite social organization, social practice, and gender roles in the Meroitic period through the lens of social identity and post-processual theories. The samples were grouped based on biological sex, median age, and assigned age categories (young, middle, and old adult). The isotopic values of each group were compared to determine if any differences could be identified to create social identity profiles. Carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 stable isotope values indicate that the elite class was relatively homogenous in their diet, but there were some statistically significant differences. The percentage of C4 plants in the diet showed that the majority of females had a diet of approximately 25% C4 plants, while the majority of the males had a diet of 25-50% C4 plants. These values suggest females were eating a more homogeneous diet possibly based on lower status foods, which are primarily in the C3 plant category. The different ranges of nitrogen and carbon isotope values in the male (-18.05‰ to -12.66‰ δ13C and 8.62‰ to 11.94‰ δ15N) and female (-17.92‰ to -16.43‰ δ13C and 11.05‰ to 14.59‰ δ15N) samples may indicate a much broader diet in males and/or differential geographic origins and residency patterns between males and females. The isotopic values may indicate particular Meroitic and Nubian cultural practices such as the production and consumption of a C4 plant based beer. Lastly, this research demonstrates the ability to ascertain intra-class differences from isotope values derived from human bone collagen.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Brock, Alexandria, "The Elite Meroitic Experience on Sai Island, Sudan: Using Stable Isotope Analysis to Identify Patterns related to Sex and Age for the Interpretation of Social Identity" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6273.