The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Cranial morphological variation among ancient North Americans: a test of the coastal migration hypothesis using three-dimensional imaging and geometric morphometric methods


Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara

Friday 8:15-8:30, 200ABC Add to calendar

The origins and migrations of the first Americans have long intrigued anthropologists. Molecular research has resolved the question of Native American origins, yet the question of the routes that the first Americans traveled as they made their way from Asia into the Americas still generates considerable debate. Recent archaeological and genetic evidence suggests an early coastal migration during the initial peopling of the New World. From these lines of evidence, it is hypothesized that the earliest North Americans should show morphological affinities to ancient skeletons from coastal sites if an early Pacific migration occurred. In this study, three male Paleoamerican crania (>9000 years BP) were compared to 95 males from coastal and interior sites in North America (7500-2500 years BP). After digital models were created with a high-definition 3D laser scanner, 16 craniofacial landmarks were recorded for each individual and imported into MorphoJ geometric morphometric software. Canonical variates analysis and computed Mahalanobis distances show that the three Paleoamericans are more similar to individuals from ancient coastal sites in California than to individuals from interior sites. Results from this preliminary study (1) support the hypothesis that an early Pacific migration occurred during the initial peopling of North America, and (2) demonstrate the utility of 3D scanning and morphometric methods to analyze Paleoamerican crania. Future work on larger samples will increase the statistical power of the analyses and provide valuable information about the population affinities of early North Americans.

This study was funded in part by a University of California Pacific Rim Research Grant (#SB100012).

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