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

Craniofacial variation among West African populations


Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida

Friday 11:45-12:00, Parlors Add to calendar

Previous research into human variation has shown that there is unequivocally more variation within continental groupings rather than among them (Madrigal and Barbujani, 2007). However, genetically controlled variation does exist among groups as a function of population structure and history. This research tested whether or not samples from the West African populations of Cameroon (n=11), Ghana (n=13) and Nigeria (n=20) can be distinguished through craniofacial morphology. It was hypothesized that craniofacial measures would not significantly differ among the relatively recently defined nationalities.

Craniometric data were collected on male skeletons at the American Museum of Natural History. Seven linear measurements were selected to represent the craniofacial region. MANOVA and Hotelling’s T2 tests revealed differences in craniofacial measurements between Nigerians and Ghanians (MANOVA: p=0.019; Hotelling’s T2: p=0.019). Discriminant function analysis and Mahalanobis distances supported the finding that the Nigerian and Ghanian samples are more distant than either is to the Cameroon sample.

While politically constructed boundaries were postulated to be ineffective in distinguishing the groups, these results show that Ghanian populations differ in craniofacial morphology from their West African neighbors. The results suggest that the distribution of craniofacial variation in West Africa follows an isolation by distance pattern. Further research is necessary to investigate the degree of variance accounted for by genetics and secular change. These results were also discussed within the broader context of other African diaspora populations. Identifying in what capacity and to what degree groups morphologically differ contributes both to practical applications and to theoretical debates on population histories.

This project was supported by Award No. NIJ 2008-DN-BX-K163 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

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