Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Nelson, Andrew J.


This study documents the analysis of 21 subadult Ancient Egyptian mummies, spanning from the New Kingdom to the Roman Period, held on the Internet Mummy Picture Archiving and Communication Technology (IMPACT) database (Nelson & Wade, 2015), as well as a single first-hand osteobiographical analysis (Appendix A). The primary objective of this research is to determine if subadult Ancient Egyptian mummies were treated differently than their adult counterparts, paying specific attention to the potential for marked life history stages within subadulthood, as well as any temporal trends that may be observed. It was previously suggested that head positioning in the Graeco/Roman Period may be a point of differentiation between children and adults. Ultimately, in the absence of marked life history stages it became apparent that subadult treatment largely mirrored that of adults, with the exception of young female and Roman Period mummies, who revealed potential life history stage transitions during subadulthood.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study examines a sample of 21 Ancient Egyptian subadult (< 21 years of age) mummies, ranging from the New Kingdom to the Roman Period being housed in the Internet Mummy Picture Archiving and Communication Technology (IMPACT) database (Nelson & Wade, 2015). This represents 1,464 of the 3,755 years of Ancient Egyptian history, from the Early Dynastic Period to the end of the Roman Period (Shaw, 2003). This is the largest comprehensive comparative study done on Ancient Egyptian subadult mummies to date. The objective of this thesis is to establish whether Ancient Egyptian subadults were treated differently than contemporaneous adults in terms of their mortuary treatment. If then, they were treated differently, did these differences illustrate marked life history stages that may have been consistent with known temporal trends. In order to explore these questions, in addition to a comprehensive review of IMPACT, a first-hand case study will be presented, which involved compiling a sex and age-at-death estimate and osteobiography for a young mummy being stored at the Royal Ontario Museum.

This thesis delves into the realm of Ancient Egyptian subadulthood, which is largely unexplored, in order to better understand what life and death were like for children in this civilization. By analyzing a series of CT scans and X-rays, age and sex profiles were compiled for each of the sample individuals, allowing for the analysis of sex-based, age-based, and time dependent trends. It was concluded that unlike Western contemporary society, marked life history stages (e.g. Infancy, Adolescence), could not be detected in the mortuary treatment of these individuals, as subadults were largely treated the same as their adult counterparts. Two exceptions were observed: young female mummies, under the age of six years, who are largely absent from the archaeological record – perhaps due to a lack of perceived personhood, and Roman Period subadults who are observed with a head positioning unique to subadults of this period. These exceptions may illustrate the potential for marked life history transitions within subadulthood. This study illustrates the value of, and continued need for, further exploration into Ancient Egyptian subadulthood, as a great deal of history still needs to be ‘unwrapped’.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.