Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 14:11-26 (2020)

Estimating the sex of Ancient Egyptian skeletal remains: Methods from Tell el-Amarna

Gretchen R. Dabbs

Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University,
1000 Faner Dr., Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

Abstract: The objective of this paper is to provide univariate and multivariate metric sex estimation techniques developed and tested specifically on New Kingdom Egyptian skeletal remains, which the literature lacks. Three samples from Tell el-Amarna were used. The South Tombs Cemetery development sample (STCDS n=155; nf=99, nm=56) was used to establish sectioning points for univariate metric standards and multivariate equations using discriminant function analysis (stepwise 0.05 to enter, 0.10 to exit). The sectioning points and equations were tested on the cross-validated development sample and on a random hold-out sample from the South Tombs Cemetery (STCTS n=59; nf=34; nm=25) and the totality of adult individuals with metric data from the North Tombs Cemetery (NTCTS n=70; nf=57; nm=13). Univariate sectioning points identify sex in concordance with sex estimates based on pelvic and cranial morphology in 63.2–89.4% (cross-validated STCDS) of cases. Test samples showed similar levels of concordance (STCTS 52.5–95.2%; NTCTS 63.8–100.0%). Fisher’s exact tests show no statistically significant difference between the concordance rates for the three samples (all p>0.002, the alpha value with Bonferroni correction). Multivariate equations utilizing either multiple measurements of the same element or measurement of multiple elements produced sex estimates in concordance with those based on pelvic and cranial morphology in 81.3–92.6% (cross-validated STCDS) of cases. Test samples show similar levels of concordance (STCTS 80.6–96.3%; NTCTS 78.3–100.0%; p>0.05 for all seven equations). These metric sex estimation techniques are of particular use when the pelvic and cranial morphology is ambiguous, when the skeletal material is incomplete, when the skeletal sample is comingled, and when the skeletal sample is curated by element, not individual.

Key words: New Kingdom; discriminant function; Amarna Period

Received 7 January 2020; accepted 19 June 2020; published online 15 August 2020.

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