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Public Lecture Series with Nathaniel J. Dominy

Mummified baboons reveal the geographic location of Punt

The origin of long-distance maritime commerce has roots in the Red Sea region. Graphic and epigraphic accounts of this trade often provide specific place names, or toponyms, with unambiguous geographic locations. Yet the location of one crucial state, Punt (or Pwnt), remains uncertain. Punt was a major emporium for gold, electrum, and biological materials such as myrrh, ebony, ivory, short-horned cattle, leopards, and hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas). The value of these resources is reflected a common epithet for Punt, "God's Land," and in the 1200-year duration of trade between Ancient Egypt and Punt (Vth-XXth Dynasties; ca. 2458-1163 BC).

The recovery of mummified baboons from New Kingdom-era tombs, which is coincident the pinnacle of trade between Ancient Egypt and Punt, raises the possibility of using stable isotope analysis to source their provenience. This talk will describe how we measured the oxygen and strontium stable isotope composition of modern and mummified baboons from two periods, the XXth Dynasty and Ptolemaic, to test between five competing geographic hypotheses for the ancient location of Punt.

Nathaniel Dominy FN'10 is the Charles Hansen Professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth College. He studies the behavior, ecology, and functional morphology of humans and nonhuman primates, with a particular emphasis on living populations in East Africa and Southeast Asia. His philosophy toward research is to integrate tropical fieldwork with mechanical, molecular, and isotopic analyses in order to better understand how and why adaptive shifts occurred during primate evolution. He has received grants or fellowships from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Packard Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. As a result of this funding, he has published over 100 articles in journals or books since receiving his PhD in 2001. He is a Senior Fellow in the Dartmouth Society of Fellows and he is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Linnean Society, the Royal Geographic Society, and the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Professor Dominy has been honored by faculties at the University of Hong Kong (the Dr. K. P. Stephen Chang Gold Medal in 2001 and the Li Ka-Shing Prize in 2002) and Dartmouth College (the Karen E. Wetterhahn Award in 2012, the Friedman Family Fellowship in 2012, the John M. Manley Huntington Award in 2015, and the C. Troy Shaver 1969 Fellowship in 2015). Other distinctions are hyperbolic but generous, including profiles as a ‘Brilliant Ten’ scientist under the age of 40 (in 2009 by Popular Science magazine) and as one of '100 Most Influential People in the Upcoming Decade' (in 2011 by Channel Young, a Shanghai-based media group).

Date: Monday, January 29

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

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