Date of Graduation

12-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Anthropology

Advisor

Jerome C. Rose

Committee Member

William F. Limp

Second Committee Member

Robert C. Mainfort, Jr.

Abstract

The site of Hierakonpolis is considered to have played an important role in the development of the Egyptian state, which formed at end of the fourth millennium BC. Archaeological evidence suggests that, for the Middle and Late Predynastic periods (ca. 3900-3200 BC), Hierakonpolis may be characterized as having experienced the following: a growth in both settlement and population size, an increased reliance on cereal agriculture, development of craft specialization, and the presence of a social hierarchy as interpreted from an observed increase in the differentiation of mortuary behavior. Historical data suggest that these social and economic changes would have affected (and been affected by) the demographic properties of the population there. This dissertation reports the results of a paleodemographic analysis of the human skeletal assemblage recovered from cemetery HK43, which represents a nonelite population from the Predynastic period at the site of Hierakonpolis.

In an effort to reassess previous studies of the age-at-death distribution for HK43, this study begins with an evaluation of the use of dental attrition in estimating age-at-death for a subset of the HK43 sample. Age-at-death estimates using dental attrition are heavily influenced by the particular method used to calculate the yearly attrition rate for each tooth. Similar to results reported elsewhere, the young age-at-death distribution for the subset of individuals with dental attrition data precluded using them as a population-specific reference sample for HK43.

Results of the analysis of three aggregate age measures have a number of implications. The results suggest that juvenile mortality may have improved during the period of cemetery use at HK43. Further these results suggest that birth rate and population growth rates increased during the period of cemetery use at HK43, and the rates of population growth during this period may have been higher than previously

assumed.

In an examination of adult mortality patterns using hazard analysis, this study finds that males and females of HK43 had a different mortality experience. Generally, males exhibit higher rates of mortality than females. Further, results suggest that female mortality, specifically for those during child-bearing years, improved over the period of cemetery use. This may be attributed to the increasing frequency of males being conscripted for activities not related to regular agricultural production. The observed improvement in mortality for reproductive-age females (and juveniles) likely had a positive impact on the birth rate and population growth rate. These results suggest that Hierakonpolis may have enjoyed a demographic advantage over rival administrative centers in Upper Egypt during middle and latter parts of the Predynastic.

Finally, the use of more-recent methods, proposed in the Rostock Manifesto (Hoppa and Vaupel, 2002a), produced an age-at-death distribution slightly younger than that using a more traditional approach to paleodemographic reconstruction. Thus, these newer statistical techniques, by themselves, may not completely address the peculiar age-at-death distributions and associated demographic estimates for archaeologically-derived skeletal samples. This study illustrates that, despite its critics, paleodemography has much to offer to the study of past population dynamics. At the same time, the field must continue working toward theoretically-grounded approaches of modeling the complex process that leads from a living population to one that may be studied hundreds or thousands of years in the future.