Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 13:1-13 (2019)

Animal proxies to characterize the strontium biosphere in the northeastern Nile Delta

Chris Stantis* (1), Geoff M. Nowell (2), Silvia Prell (3), Holger Schutkowski (1)

(1) Faculty of Science and Technology,
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University,
Fern Barrow, Poole, Dorset BH12 5BB, United Kingdom
email: (corresponding author)
(2) Department of Earth Sciences, Durham University, Durham,
Lower Mountjoy, South Rd, Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom
(3) Austrian Academy of Sciences,
Vordere Zollamtsstrasse 3, 1030 Vienna, Austria

Abstract: Strontium (87Sr/86Sr) isotope analysis is a potent tool for reconstructing the residential mobility of humans and animals in the past but is reliant on knowledge of strontium isotope variation within the expanded physical environment. This paper aims to contribute to the isoscape in the northeastern Nile Delta with faunal samples from the site of Tell el-Dab‘a (Avaris), believed to be the capital of the so-called Hyksos kings.
Mapping the available 87Sr/86Sr ratios from Egypt and the Sudan highlights major research gaps outside the Nile region. The current corpus of knowledge also shows that the Nile River region yields a homogenous range of isotopic values (median and IQR 0.7076+/-0.0003). Strontium isotope ratios from human dental enamel, which record childhood residence, will provide evidence of non-locals from outside the Nile area with confidence but these values suggest that identifying movement along the Nile River in the past will be difficult without the use of supplementary evidence (e.g. oxygen stable isotope analysis).
We present 87Sr/86Sr ratios of archaeologically-derived faunal bone samples (n=6) from the site of Tell el-Dab‘a (Avaris) in the northeastern Nile Delta. The 87Sr/86Sr ratios fit within the expectations of the wider Nile values (mean 0.70769+/-0.00003) and serve as the first archaeologically-derived values reported for this area of Egypt.

Key words: paleomobility; migration; biosphere baseline; Egypt

Received 4 September 2019; accepted 15 January 2020; published online 18 February 2020.

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