The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

The use of linguistic data in bioarchaeological research: an example from the American Southwest


1Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto Scarborough, 2Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 4 Add to calendar

It has been suggested recently that the genes and languages of prehistoric cultures inferred from the archaeological record in the American Southwest need not have co-evolved as packages, as is commonly assumed. The purpose of the present research is to assess this notion of co-evolution by examining the concordance of linguistic and genetic relationships among ancestral and present-day Tanoan-speaking Pueblo Indians of the Northern Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. In order to estimate the relationships among languages we generated pair-wise measures of lexical dissimilarity among present-day Tanoan languages based on a 40-word subset of the Swadesh 100-word list using the Automated Similarity Judgement Program. To estimate genetic relationships we generated biological distances using craniometric data. The craniometric data were derived from skeletal populations known to be directly ancestral to the same pueblos from which the linguistic data were derived. We generated neighbor-joining trees using these distance matrices, and conducted a series of distance matrix correlation analyses (Mantel tests) to test a simple isolation by distance model. Although the trees describing linguistic and biological relationships exhibited moderate concordance, the results of the Mantel test indicated there was not a significant relationship between linguistic and biological distances (r=0.309, P=0.171). The isolation by distance model was rejected for both language (r=0.520, P=0.068) and biological relationships (r=0.305, P=0.094). These results support the notion that linguistic and biological coevolution has not occurred historically among the Tanoan Pueblos. Furthermore, linguistic and biological relationships do not seem to have been mediated by geographic distance.