Anthropological analysis

Anthropological analysis of the material
from tombs TT 184, Saff-1 and Tomb (Kampp) -43-

Orsolya László

The aim of this research has been the analysis of the human bone material from the excavation of the Hungarian Archaeological Mission at the southern slope of el-Khoha Hill in Qurna. The analysis was completed on the anthropological sample from the tomb of Nefermenu (TT 184, 19th Dynasty) and partly on the characteristically Third Intermediate and Late Period material excavated from the eastern part of Saff-1 (Middle Kingdom) and from a secondary shaft inside this area, while the examination of the bones from the sloping passage of Tomb (Kampp) -43- (New Kingdom, Ramesside Period) was also started. The anthropological material of the three areas consists mainly of commingled, disarticulated human bone remains. However, some of the remains are mummified, which allowed me to observe the different mummification techniques. Although they were in secondary position as well, they could be referred to a single individual due to their good preservation or the bandages which kept together the bones of each skeleton. This enabled me to collect some individual data as well. But since most of the material consisted of disarticulated bones and disturbed mummified remains, I could mainly describe the three different sites with the establishment of the minimum number of individuals (MNI) in each. My tasks also consisted of selecting and documenting the most unique pathological alterations. In the following, I summarize the results of the anthropological analysis of the above mentioned sites.

TT 184 (Nefermenu)

Shaft I.

I started my work with the examination of the mummies secondarily placed by Mohamed Saleh in the shaft situated in the first hall of the tomb of Nefermenu. There were three females, one male and one individual of unidentified sex. Age could be established in the case of three female individuals, who were all between 30-40 years of age. The usage of bitumen could be observed in four cases, which coloured the skin black. One female, No. SH 5 was not mummified with bitumen; the soft tissue could only be found in some parts of the body. The orbits of the female No. SH 2 were filled with textile. In one case (No. SH 3) the abdominal cavity was filled with bitumen, while in another (No. SH 4) it was filled with textile.
            The commingled human bone material was divided into six different parts according to the following phases of the excavations: burial chamber, bones from the sarcophagus (TT 184); and the four sections of the sloping passage. I analyzed and interpreted the samples from these areas separately, but I also treated the material of the tomb as a whole. The bones found in the sarcophagus belonged to minimum three individuals; thus this sample could not be referred to as the original material of the sarcophagus, so I did not differentiate it from the other parts of the burial chamber. According to the examined bone material, there were remains of minimum 25 individuals in the burial chamber, including at least four males, three females, one juvenile and minimum four non-adults. The highest MNI was experienced in the burial chamber, but a high minimum number of individuals was also found in the second section of the sloping passage (MNI=17), while the lowest MNI was in the fourth section (MNI=4). Since the skeletal parts found in the different parts of the tomb could be related to each other, I combined all the data and it gave a minimum number of 38 individuals for the entire tomb. There are a minimum of six males, six females, one juvenile and at least four infants in the group. Skeletal elements of children were in all parts of the grave, while we only found remains of minimum one juvenile in the burial chamber. Mummified remains were in the highest number in the second part of the sloping passage. All these remains belonged to adult individuals. In the tomb of Nefermenu we found both traits of the usage of bitumen during the mummification process and remains without. In one case the skull was also filled with this material, but in some cases it could be detected in the body cavity as well. From sloping passage 2 most of the mummified remains were not treated with bitumen and sometimes only the bones with little soft tissue remained inside a bandage. In the first section of the passage only some phalanges were found, showing signs of black bitumen on their surface. The presence of these so-called “black mummies” and the significant high number of minimum individuals suggest that the tomb probably was used over a long period of time or its material mixed with those of other nearby tombs, or simply used as a place to deposit bones during previous excavation works around this area.

Saff-1 – Eastern part and shaft

A part of the human bones excavated from the eastern part of the “saff” belonged to the shaft located in this area. Grave goods were found in situ within it but during the excavation it was not possible to relate these finds to one individual. Considering all of this, the anthropological analysis was conducted according to these two parts. As I could not exclude the mixture of individuals related to the shaft and the upper surface due to later disturbances, therefore I again summarized the data of both. Only the skeletons of a 14 year-old (No. S2) and an approx. 12-14 year-old (No. S4) were almost complete from the assemblage, which may suggest that they were originally buried here. Some elements of skeleton S4 were separately found in the assemblage of the disarticulated bones in the shaft. I observed a higher minimum number of individuals in the eastern part of the “saff” (MIN=24) than in the shaft (MIN=14). In the former, minimum two males and five females, while in the shaft minimum one male and one female were situated. A significant amount of child remains emerged from both sections. I could determine a minimum number of 6 in the shaft and 11 in the eastern part. There was one juvenile in each section. Among children both younger and older age groups were present and newborns were also found in both areas.
            From the summarized data of the eastern section and the shaft a minimum of 34 individuals were found in this area, in which there were minimum three males, five females, two juveniles and 13 children. The high ratio of children in the material is also striking from the combined data. The future research of the other areas (western part, sections II and III) may explain whether this is a local phenomenon or a sign of later disturbances.
            I found examples for both mummification techniques (the usage of bitumen or its absence) in the sample. Signs of treatment with bitumen could not be observed on the two children from the shaft (Nos. S2, S4). This may be supported by the fact that the soft tissue decomposed completely.

Sloping passage of Tomb (Kampp) -43-

The human bone assemblage of Tomb -43- can be described with the least complex material from the three sites. The following results should be treated as preliminary, since the possible relationships of -43- with other tombs (e.g. TT 205) and also the material from its other parts (e.g. burial chamber) are not yet known. Similarly to the tomb of Nefermenu (TT 184), here the sloping passage was also divided into several parts, from which three have been excavated so far. The anthropological analysis was conducted in accordance with these.
            Skeletal remains of one juvenile (No. 43/1), one female (27-40 years of age), one male (over 50 years) and a child (around 5 years old) were found without soft tissue in bandages. The right part of the pelvis, the right femur and clavicle of the juvenile individual from sloping passage I (No. 43/1 – Figure 2, 3) were separately found in the commingled assemblage of bones from the same section. This also indicates the effect of later disturbances on the human remains and what extent could cause their mixture and secondary deposition.
            The highest minimum number of individuals was in the third section of the passage, where at least 26 individuals were situated. Here there was a minimum of four males, two females, two juveniles and five children. Minimum 16 individuals can be related to the second and six to the first section. Child remains were approximately in similar ratio in the second and the third part (MIN=6 and 5). In the first section the minimum number of children was only two. For the entire sample of the three passages the minimum number of children is 11, among them the members of younger age groups (0-7 years) showed a slightly higher amount (MIN=7) than the older ones (7-14 years). Nevertheless, there were five males, seven females and two juveniles in the excavated parts of the passage.
            Most mummified remains showed the usage of bitumen, which may support that the tomb was used in later periods.

Summary of the pathological analysis

Despite the fact that the bone assemblages coming from the three sites were all mixed and disarticulated, I was able to observe that there is a high occurrence of certain pathological alterations while there is a lack of others, which possibly characterizes the population of this area. One of the most frequent phenomena was the endocranial lesions which could be found not only among children but among adults too. These capillary-like lesions on the endocranial surface of the skull can form due to specific or non-specific infections. At the same time, inflammation of the periosteum (periostitis) on long bones was especially rare, which also can be the result of diffuse or local infections. The so-called hyperostosis frontalis interna was also frequent on adult skulls, which can be described with bone appositions mainly on the endocranial surface of the frontal bone. The possible reasons of this can be hormonal or metabolic disorders and it mainly occurs among older females. Furthermore, on the skull of some elderly individuals we could detect osteoporotic changes in the area of the parietal bones. All of these are not frequent for instance in European samples, but the pattern shown by this material should be further investigated regarding this geographical area and also different periods.
            The rare example of a trepanation case (Figure 1) from sloping passage I of the tomb of Nefermenu (TT 184) should be mentioned here, as well as the abnormally short right humerus of an adult individual from -43-. This latter could develop as a result of congenital disorder but also there is a possibility that a trauma affecting the growing plate during childhood lead to this condition. This could be supported by the fact that the head of this humerus is slightly slipped downward.
            I also have to mention a 16-19 year old individual from the sloping passage of -43-, whose pelvis showed very female characteristics (No. 43/1 – Figure 2, 3). The long bones, especially of the right side, were severely thin and atrophied (Figure 4), which suggests a disability of the individual. However, the right tibia and the fibula were bent, which are the main syndromes of rickets. This curve can also develop under the pressure of the body weight on long bones, which could mean that the individual could use this side of her body to some extent. Beside the lower legs inside the bandage we found three wooden sticks (Figure 5). One of them was irregular; one is thin and with a smooth surface, while another had its bark removed, which was then wound around the stick again. A textile line forming part of the bandage was attached with a knot to the irregular one. Since both legs were in a common bandage and the soft tissue was also completely decomposed, we could not determine to which leg the sticks were attached. The purpose of these sticks could be to support the leg while moving; to straighten the bent right leg; or to firm the bandages.
            Regarding dental problems, dental attrition was the most common, which appeared to be severe even in young ages. This probably can be related to dietary habits and food preparation processes (e.g. grinding of cereals on stone). Symptoms of periodental disease can also be found. Considering all of these, the presence of cysta/abscess and the high frequency of antemortem tooth loss are not surprising.
            The future prospects are to include in the analysis the western part and the inner area of Saff-1 to be able to establish whether there is any relationship between the three areas based on the skeletal material. As Tomb -43- has not been excavated entirely, this also will be a further task for the next seasons.




List of Figures


1. Trepanation on the left parietal bone on the skull of a male from the sloping passage of TT184 (Nefermenu)

2. Mummified remains of a young female (No. 43/1) from the sloping passage of Tomb Kampp -43-

3. The skeletal remains of a young female (No. 43/1) from the sloping passage of Tomb Kampp -43- after the opening of the bandage

4. The humeri of No. 43/1 showing severe atrophy, especially on the right side. The right humerus is also bent at the proximal third of the diaphysis probably as a result of a fracture
5. The three wooden sticks found in the bandage of No. 43/1 beside the lower legs

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