Study traces Egyptians’ stone-age roots

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Some 64 centuries ago, a prehistoric people of obscure origins farmed an area along Egypt’s Nile River. Barely out of the Stone Age, they produced simple but well-made pottery, jewelry and stone tools, and carefully buried their dead with ritual objects in apparent preparation for an afterlife. These items often included doll-like female figurines with exaggerated sexual features, thought to possibly symbolize rebirth.

Despite the simplicity of their possessions, a new study suggests these people, the Badarians, may have ultimately given rise to one of the world’s first major civilizations some 14 centuries later: the glittering culture of Egypt.

Indeed, the Egyptians seem to have been basically the same people from the end of the Stone Age through late Roman times, the research found.

In the study, Joel Irish of the University of Alaska Fairbanks analyzed similarities among teeth from almost 1,000 people from various eras of Egyptian history and prehistory and found, he wrote, “overall population continuity” over this roughly 5,000-year span.

Irish described the results in a paper in the Dec. 5 online edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. But he noted that while the finding backs up views that some archaeologists have voiced before, it’s partly at odds with some other studies of skeletal remains, so further tests are needed.

The different results might stem from different sample sizes or types of data used, he wrote.

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