Bioarchaeology and Looting: A Case Study from Sudan

Author(s): Jess Beck; Katherine Kinkopf

Year: 2015


Disturbing the dead has been considered a criminal activity in the Nile Valley since the trial of Egyptian tomb robbers in 1100 BCE. Looting is one of the most destructive forces at archaeological sites; grave robbing, in particular, leaves human remains and cultural heritage irreparably damaged. During 2007-2008, the Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition (OINE) worked to identify, record, and preserve important archaeological sites that have since been destroyed by the Merowe Dam. Al-Widay, a cemetery that was excavated by the OINE near the Fourth Cataract region of the Nile River in northern Sudan, is a site with important implications for understanding the taphonomy of archaeological looting. Over 60% of the tumuli excavated at Al-Widay were disturbed in antiquity, making it an ideal case study for examining the effects of looting on the recovered human skeletal remains. Our research applies bioarchaeological methods of quantifying fragmentation to an assessment of culturally significant anatomical regions in order to evaluate the nature and degree of human disturbance activity at Al-Widay. Studying the preservational patterning of looting makes it possible to access aspects of looting behavior in the past, as well as to reconstruct the original archaeological context of disturbed remains.

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Bioarchaeology and Looting: A Case Study from Sudan. Katherine Kinkopf, Jess Beck. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397619)

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Spatial Coverage

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