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

Are socioethnic groups biologically meaningful entities?: A tooth size allocation analysis of the Baltis of northern Pakistan


Anthropology, California State University, Bakersfield

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The inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan, northern Pakistan self-identify as members of specific ethnic groups. However, it remains unknown whether these social constructs encompass biologically meaningful populations. In this study, we examine whether the ethnic group known as the “Baltis” represents a biologically meaningful population by testing two geographically distinct samples. Logically, if the Baltis encompass a biologically meaningful population, then these two geographically separated samples of Baltis ought to exhibit closer phenetic affinities to one another.

The biological meaningfulness of the “Baltis” was investigated through an analysis of permanent tooth size allocation among 194 Balti individuals from Partuk and 217 Balti individuals from Khaplu, the tehsil seat located 35 km northwest of Partuk. These samples were compared to 24 other samples from Pakistan, peninsular India, and prehistoric Central Asia. Maximum mesiodistal and buccolingual measurements were obtained for all permanent teeth, except third molars. Measurements were size-corrected against the geometric mean to control for sex dimorphism and evolutionary tooth size reduction. Squared Euclidian distances were calculated to access inter-sample differences in tooth size allocation. Neighbor-joining cluster analysis, principal co-ordinates analysis, and multidimensional scaling were employed to analyze pattering of phenetic affinities among samples.

Results indicate that when compared to other samples, the two Balti samples exhibit closest biological affinities to one another. Such results indicate that the ethnic identification “Baltis” represents not only a social construct, but also a biologically meaningful population. Thus, the socially defined ethnic entity, Baltis, is legitimate for reconstructing population histories of ethnic groups of northern Pakistan.

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