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Multi-isotopic study of diet and mobility in the northeastern Nile Delta

Stantis, Chris and Kharobi, Arwa and Maaranen, Nina and Macpherson, Colin and Bietak, Manfred and Prell, Silvia and Schutkowski, Holger (2021) 'Multi-isotopic study of diet and mobility in the northeastern Nile Delta.', Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 13 (6). p. 105.


The origin of the Hyksos dynasty (c. 1638–1530 BCE) is thought to be rooted in the Near East given the architectural features and burial customs present at the site of Tell el-Dabca, identified as the capital of Hyksos rule in the Eastern Delta of Egypt. We expand previous 87Sr/86Sr research on the site’s cemetery assemblage using a multi-isotopic methodology: oxygen (δ18O) and carbon (δ13Ccarb) stable isotopes from the carbonate portion of tooth enamel (n = 75), along with collagen (δ13Ccoll, δ15N) analysis of dentine and bone (n = 31). Pairing δ18O with previous 87Sr/86Sr data identifies 60% of the cohort as non-locals (45/75). Although there were a greater proportion of non-local females (24/30, 80%) compared to males (10/20, 50%), there were no significant differences between the sexes in δ13Ccarb or δ18Ocarb values. There were no spatial patterns regarding the three cemetery sites, nor any observable patterns regarding where non-locals were interred in the largest excavated cemetery, Area A/II. Both first-generation immigrants and individuals from the northeastern Nile Delta were buried following elite Asiatic burial customs, suggesting continuation of foreign burial culture. All collagen showed poor preservation; δ13Ccoll and δ15N analysis were not possible. δ13Ccarb showed no significant difference between locals and non-local diet, although non-locals at Tell el-Dabca did eat a broader variety of foods as a group, suggested by a wider δ13Ccarb range (− 13.5 to − 9.6‰ in non-locals compared to locals’ − 12.1 to − 10.3‰). If there is a difference in food culture between immigrants and native Egyptians, it was not observable using isotopic analyses.

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Date accepted:12 April 2021
Date deposited:09 June 2021
Date of first online publication:01 June 2021
Date first made open access:09 June 2021

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