The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The seminal importance of the Ipiutak and Birnirk in ancestor-descendent relationships across the North American Arctic


Department of Anatomy, Des Moines University

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The Arctic of North America provides an excellent laboratory for examining historic human population movement and differentiation patterns due to the large number of archaeological sample populations with well established temporal and geographical provenience. This research utilizes cranial morphological variation from 27 discrete Arctic populations spread across the North American Arctic to examine the role that culture and migration may have played in defining biological relationships and population structure among modern human Arctic populations. By examining the pattern of morphological variation using a number of statistics that quantify cranial morphological affinities and hence biological relationships, this work provides a framework for explaining population structure differences and ancestor-descendent relationships across the Arctic. Most prominently, a pattern of ancestry and descent emerges from two primary sources, the Ipiutak at Point Hope and the Birnirk at Point Barrow. Emerging between 1600 and 1400 years before present, these two occupations along the north coast of Alaska are fundamentally important in their contribution to the formation of variation patterns across the Arctic at the time of European contact. The Birnirk at Point Barrow appear to be the formative ancestor to the Thule, which then spread into the Central Arctic and Greenland, while the Ipiutak at Point Hope appear to have stronger affinities with historic west and northwest Arctic populations.

This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant #0752134, and generous support from Washington University in St. Louis.

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