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

Investigating cranial morphology of early, archaic and recent Native American samples: a preliminary alternative interpretation to the peopling of the Americas debate


1Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 2Anthropology, University of Tennessee

Thursday 1:00-1:15, Galleria North Add to calendar

Various metric studies of the earliest dated North American crania and recent Native American specimens imply that there is not substantial evidence for an ancestral relationship between these samples. However, recent genetic and paleogeological evidence offer alternative interpretations. This study tests the hypothesis that the differences in cranial morphology between early and recent Native American samples indicate a lack of descendent relationship. A sample of early North American crania were used and included male specimens from Plattsmouth Ossuary, Wet Gravel Pit, Lime Creek, Wizard’s Beach, and Spirit Cave, as well as female samples from Plattsmouth Ossuary, Wet Gravel Pit, Gilder Mound, Buhl Cave and Gordon Creek. These specimens were compared to Archaic Native America crania and recent Native American samples (recent sample was obtained from the W.W. Howells Craniometric dataset).

A minimum number of measurements were utilized that would describe the cranial dimensions cited in the literature as representing the areas of most morphological difference in the early and recent Native samples. The variation in the combination of cranial measurements described was assessed by discriminant function analysis and calculation of Mahalanobis distances.

Results indicate that early crania exhibit variability. However, when these crania are compared to the Archaic and recent Native samples the differences observed are interpreted as representative of gradual change. Conclusions of this study place highlights the intermediate Archaic morphological trends, which provides characteristics that allow for the interpretation that the dissimilar morphology cited between the early and recent samples are emphasized by the vast temporal span.

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