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


Temporal trends and regional differences in body size and shape of Europeans from the Late Pleistocene to recent times

MARKKU NISKANEN1, CHRISTOPHER RUFF2, BRIGITTE HOLT3, VLADIMIR SLÁDEK4,5, MARGIT BERNER6, HEATHER GARVIN2, EVAN GAROFALO2, DANNIELLE TOMPKINS3, JUHO-ANTTI JUNNO1, HELI MAIJANEN1,9, ANNA-KAISA SALMI1, SIRPA NIINIMÄKI7, TIINA HEIKKILÄ1, ROSA VILKAMA1 and KATI SALO8.

1Archaeology, University of Oulu, 2Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 4Department of Anthropology, Charles University, 5Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Brno, 6Natural History Museum, Vienna, 7Biology, University of Oulu, 8Archaeology, University of Helsinki, 9Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee Knoxville

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This study is based on osteometric data of +2000 Holocene and Late Pleistocene Homo sapiens skeletons from Europe. Body size is represented by stature (estimated with a recently-revised anatomical method, when possible, or new long bone regression equations derived from this sample) and body mass (estimated from stature and bi-iliac breadth, if possible, or femoral head breadth). Body proportions are compared by regressing long bone lengths, clavicular lengths, and bi-iliac breadths against partial skeletal heights (PSKH = presacral vertebral heights + femoral length + tibial lengths).

Mean body size declined across the Last Glacial Maximum (the LGM), increased until the medieval period, declined again during the post-medieval period, and increased considerably over the last 100 years. The North/Central Europeans have been larger bodied than their Mediterranean contemporaries since ca. 5000 BP. The sum of femoral and tibial lengths reduced in relation to PSKH across the LGM, but since then this relative limb length has been stable. Clavicular length and bi-iliac breadth exhibit little or no fluctuation in relation to PSKH through all time periods. The clavicular length and bi-iliac breadth do not differ in relation to PSKH between North/Central and Mediterranean Europeans, but the Mediterranean Europeans from all Holocene time periods tend to have relatively longer lower limb bones and higher crural indices consistent with general ecogeographic predictions.

This study was funded by National Science Foundation, grant numbers 0642297 and 1124775, and Academy of Finland, grant number 127241.

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