Project: Life and death in trying times. A bioarchaeological study of the effect of sociopolitical and climatic changes on the Memphite population of Saqqara, Egypt

  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin


    Project collaborators:
    • Dr. Magdalena M. Woźniak, post-doctoral researcher, textile specialist
    • Dr. Mennat-Allah El Dorry, specialist in archaeobotany

    National Science Centre (Poland), OPUS 21, UMO-2021/41/B/HS3/00471

    Project term:

    July 2022 – June 2026


    PLN 1 406 212

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  • Life and death in trying times: A bioarchaeological study of the effect of sociopolitical and climatic changes on the Memphite population of Saqqara, Egypt

    Keywords: Ancient Egypt, Saqqara necropolis, climate changes, population diversity, bioarchaeology, burial practices, human remains, physical health, funerary textiles, social status

    In Egypt, recent studies have linked episodes of climate variability and environmental shifts to events of severe drought, famine and state collapse. The aim of the project is to investigate temporal variation in health and social diversity of the ancient Memphite population at Saqqara during two temporally-distant time periods (Old Kingdom/First Intermediate Period and Late/Graeco-Roman Period) that witnessed dynamic socio-political and climatic changes. The specific objectives of the project are to investigate a possible causal link between environmental and climatic changes, and biological and social diversity of the Saqqara population and its physical health.

    The project will apply bioarchaeological studies, including (a) bioarchaeological analysis of human remains to determine health status and diversity of the Saqqara population in two temporally-distant periods; (b) dietary and environmental isotopes; (c) analysis of burial practices and plant remains from mortuary contexts; (d) textile analysis, including identification of fibres and mapping of their arrangement on the body; and (e) establishing social stratification of the Saqqara cemetery population. The results of the study will be compared with available data from the Memphite and other ancient Egyptian cemeteries in an attempt to determine geographical and temporal variations in health during the periods of interest and in relation to the major socio-political and climatic changes.

    Associated events:
    Lectures and conference presentations:

    December 6, 2022: Faculty of Archaeology seminar series “Expect the unexpected: Investigating life and death at the Saqqara cemetery, Egypt”. Warsaw/Faculty of Archaeology and online.

    May 29, 2023: Archaeo-Oriental Studies seminar series “(In)Visible People: A bioarchaeological perspective on power, status, and children in the ancient Nile Valley”. online

    August 6-11, 2023: Poster presentation at the 13th International Congress of Egyptologists “Deadlier Seasons? Investigating the seasonality of death in the Graeco-Roman cemetery at Saqqara” (with Julia Chyla, Andreas Winkler, Kamil Omar Kuraszkiewicz), 13th International Congress of Egyptologists, Leiden 6th-11th August 2023

    Project bibliography:


    Polish – Egyptian Archaeological Mission Saqqara website

    More about Saqqara

    On social media – #saqqaraburials #pastenvironmentandhealth

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