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Ronika Power
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Trans-Sahara Project
Dept. of Archaeology & Anthropology
University of Cambridge


Project Funding
Variation, Diet and Migration in the Garamantes of Fazzan, Trans-Sahara Project ERC

I am currently engaged as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Human Mobility and Identity Workgroup of the Trans-Sahara Project. The project is based at the University of Leicester under the direction of Prof. David Mattingly and is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). It seeks to explore questions of state formation, migration and trade in the central Sahara (1000 BC - AD 1500), using the Garamantes civilisation as the research fulcrum. The kingdom of the Garamantes covered ca.250,000km² of the Libyan Sahara and was arguably the earliest indigenous urbanised state within the region. The Garamantes were renowned for their sophisticated methods of irrigated agriculture and were a focal point in the pre-Islamic era for communication and trade networks that linked the Nile, Mediterranean and Maghreb with Sub-Saharan societies around Lake Chad and the Niger Bend. The Trans-Sahara Project seeks to explore the degree of interconnectedness or comparative isolation of the Central Sahara with/from these neighbouring regions, especially concerning the movement of people, ideas/knowledge and material culture into and out of Fazzan in the pre-Islamic period.

Within this schema, I am working with Dr. Marta Lahr (LCHES) and Dr. Tamsin O'Connell (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research), to determine what (if any) biological and cultural links can be established between the historical kingdom of the Garamantes and the preceding late Neolithic (Pastoral) peoples in the Saharan, Sub-Saharan, Nilotic and Mediterranean regions. Using osteological, craniomorphometrical, isotopic and microbiomic analyses, we are examining the geographical affinity/ies of Garamantian society, with a view to differentiating individuals who migrated into the central Sahara during their own lifetimes from others of potentially diverse ethnic composition who lived in the region for the duration of the life course. Once such admixtures are identified, I will be working with my Tans-Sahara colleague, Dr. Nick Ray of the University of Leicester, to combine Garamantian biological and archaeological evidence to examine how these Saharan communities expressed their identity through material culture, burial ritual and funerary structures.

My research platform aligns with biocultural archaeological approaches, whereby the data derived from the analysis of the human body is viewed in context with all other forms of archaeological and historical evidence to provide meaningful insights into the demography, health, life-ways and world-views of individuals and groups from past populations. Within this framework, I am particularly interested in exploring the lived experiences of the past through the bodies of marginalised individuals and groups -marginalised either within their own societies or archaeological narratives- including children, women, the poor, disabled, sick, mentally ill, criminal, disenfranchised, enslaved and migrants. To achieve this aim, I engage an interdisciplinary research methodology which incorporates the fields of History, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Archaeological Science, Philosophy and Historiography. While my home discipline is Egyptian Archaeology, I have successfully applied this methodology to various geographically and temporally diverse populations: from Early Dynastic to Middle Kingdom Egypt through to Late Anglo-Saxon England, and now to the pre-Islamic Libyan Saraha.

I also have a strong research interest in the analysis of mummified human remains from all geographical and temporal contexts, particularly those of ancient Egypt, and am engaged with Dr. Yann Tristant of Macquarie University, Sydney, as a Co-Investigator on the MQ Mummies Project. Using the same interdisciplinary approach described above, I search for insights into the suite of religious, cultural, technological, socioeconomic and environmental impetuses that gave rise to the many and varied expressions of this phenomenon across cultures. I am also interested in the modern history of mummy studies and engage museological and historiographical research to explore the insatiable public and scientific desire for direct engagement with these individuals from the past who 'live' among us. 






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