Shaping Health: An Examination of Health, Social Identity and Burial Practices in the Egyptian Predynastic

Author(s): Amanda Wissler

Year: 2015


Patterns of disease manifestation in individuals and within a community reveal how health is affected by social and economic identity. Differences in wealth and social status can lead to disparities in diet, living conditions and healthcare. This interaction is explored using data from skeletal remains and grave architecture from the Predynastic Cemetery N7000 at Naga-ed-Der, located in Upper Egypt. In his Ph.D. dissertation, Stephen Savage (1995) organized individuals into six spatial clusters or "descent groups" he believes represent discrete competing social groups and categorized them by additional mortuary elements such as grave structure type and grave materials.

If health is affected by social identity in the Naga-ed-Der sample, one expects differences in disease frequencies among the six descent groups. The presence of porotic hyperostosis, cribra orbitalia and osteomyelitis was examined in 143 individuals and compared across descent groups and grave styles. Results show a much higher proportion of disease in sub-rectangular graves versus other types. Furthermore, a higher percentage of individuals from descent group 6 exhibit stress indicators, especially compared to descent group 1. These results suggest health status in Cemetery N7000 was affected by differences in political, ideological or economic power between the competing social groups.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Shaping Health: An Examination of Health, Social Identity and Burial Practices in the Egyptian Predynastic. Amanda Wissler. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395716)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;