Nubia’s Relation to Egypt

The article “Diffusion, Biological Determinism, and Biocultural Adaptation in the Nubian Corridor,” written by David S. Carlson and Dennis P. Van Gerven in 1979, suggests that in situ evolution better explains the diffusion, biological determinism, and biocultural adaptation of Nubia than does the previously applied historical diffusionist paradigm.  Carlson and Van Gerven state that the purpose of this article is first to review investigations of the cultural history of Lower Nubia and examine the way in which skeletal remains have been used to “reconstruct” the cultural history of Nubia, and then to propose alternative methods of using skeletal remains.

David Carlson and Dennis Van Gerven are both highly qualified to write an article on this topic.  Carlson graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1974 with a Ph. D. in physical anthropology.  From there, he went to the University of Michigan where he completed his postdoctoral fellowship in craniofacial anomalies.  He has published a number of articles on craniofacial anomalies and has written books on related areas of biology and muscle adaptation.  These qualifications support his coauthored thesis that in situ evolution best explains the various cultural changes of Nubia.  A possible bias of Carlson could be an overemphasis on the effect he sees geographical location having on the evolution and development of groups of people.

Dennis Van Gerven graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a Ph. D. in physical anthropology three years earlier than Carlson, in 1971.  Upon graduation, Van Gerven taught anthropology at the University of Kentucky before transferring to the University of Colorado, in 1975.  He has written a plethora of articles on Early Nubia and on the skeletal biology of the Amerindian populations, which are indigenous to Brazil.  Van Gerven is likely subject to the same bias as Carlson.

This article reviews the use of primary sources by other researchers and anthropologists in explaining the cultural history of Nubia.  Due to the nature of this article, it is somewhat difficult to follow without having read the writings of the aforementioned researchers and anthropologists.  Nubia was located in Southern Egypt, in what is today Sudan.  Originally, Nubia was formed as a separate kingdom within Egypt.  According to William Adams and Anthony Arkell, numerous artifacts found in Nubia strongly suggest a trade-based relationship between Egypt and Nubia (564).  However, during the Second Intermediate Period in Egypt, it is believed that Egyptian military forces moved into Nubia and remained for an extended period of time (565).  This information is supported by primary sources from both Lower Nubia and Egypt.

After examining the work of many other researchers and anthropologists, David Carlson and Dennis Van Gerven proposed that many of the conclusions made about the cultural history of Nubia were very biased, possibly because of the “Romantic and simplistic notions popular in the 19th century” (576).  Carlson and Van Gerven believed that the previously accepted methods of anthropological questioning were inaccurate.  For example, in 1966, Michael Crichton analyzed the evolution of early Egyptian groups without giving consideration to the possible effect of geography (572).  Carlson and Van Gerven believed that geography needs to be considered because the groups Crichton identified were located 432 kilometers apart.  Carlson and Van Gerven stated that geographical adaptation probably played a strong role in the evolution of these early Egyptian groups.

Throughout the discussion section of the article, David Carlson and Dennis Van Gerven give many example of poor research done in the past.  I see these examples as the strong point of the article because they are very specific, detailed, and descriptive.  For each example, Carlson and Van Gerven identified flaws in the research of others and provided reasoning in regard to why they believed each example to be flawed.  The most prominent weakness in the critique by Carlson and Van Gerven is that they do not provide enough primary sources to support their conclusions on the research of others.  They draw conclusions based primarily on their years of schooling rather than drawing conclusions based upon research done by others.  This makes it difficult for the reader to assess the validity of the statements made by the coauthors.  Based on simple research online, I believe the cited research to be valid.

I feel that the subject of this article is very interesting because of the biological references included in the decision making of the various researchers mentioned.  Overall, the article was well written and informative.  I knew that Nubia was a separate kingdom within Egypt, but I never really considered the effect this location could have on Nubia.  In regard to anthropological research methods, most of the information I read was new to me.  However, I can clearly see why David Carlson and Dennis Van Gerven were frustrated with the lack of consideration given to the effect of geographical location on the evolution and development of groups in both Egypt and Nubia.  I would recommend this article to people who have an anthropological background because it is not an easy read.