The Amarna South Tombs Cemetery: Biocultural Dynamics of a Disembedded Capital City in New Kingdom Egypt

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The Egyptian New Kingdom city of Akhetaten (modern: Tell el-Amarna, el-Amarna, or simply Amarna) provides a unique opportunity to study ancient biocultural dynamics. It was a disembedded capital removed from

The Egyptian New Kingdom city of Akhetaten (modern: Tell el-Amarna, el-Amarna, or simply Amarna) provides a unique opportunity to study ancient biocultural dynamics. It was a disembedded capital removed from the major power bases of Memphis and Thebes that was built, occupied, and abandoned within approximately 20 years (c. 1352–1336 BCE). This dissertation used the recently excavated Amarna South Tombs cemetery to test competing models for the development of disembedded capitals, such as the geographic origin of its migrants and its demographic structure in comparison to contrastive models for the establishment of settlements. The degree to which biological relatedness organized the South Tombs cemetery was also explored. The results suggest that the Nile Valley into the New Kingdom (1539–1186 BCE) was very diverse in dental cervical phenotype and thus highly mobile in respects to gene flow, failing to reject that the Amarna city was populated by individuals and families throughout the Nile Valley. In comparison, the Amarna South Tombs cemetery contained the least amount of dental phenotypic diversity, supporting a founder effect due to migration from larger, more diverse gene pools to the city or the very fact that the city and sample only reflect a 20-year interval with little time to accumulate phenotypic variation. Parts of the South Tombs cemetery also appear to be organized by biological affinity, showing consistent and significant spatial autocorrelation with biological distances generated from dental cervical measurements in male, female, and subadult (10–19 years of age) burials closest to the South Tombs. This arrangement mimics the same orderliness in the residential areas of the Amarna city itself with officials surrounded by families that supported their administration. Throughout the cemetery, adult female grave shaft distances predict their biological distances, signaling a nuclear family dynamic that included many females including mothers, widows, and unwed aunts, nieces, and daughters. A sophisticated paleodemographic model using simulated annealing optimization projected the living population of the South Tombs cemetery, which overall conformed to a transplanted community similar to 19th century mill villages of the United States and United Kingdom.