Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
March 27, 2015 3:45, Grand Ballroom E/F/G
Questions concerning the biological affinity of the earliest Americans have long been of great interest to physical anthropologists. Morphological investigations often focus on cranial and/or dental similarities in order to establish probable biological relationships, and previous workers have concluded that, broadly speaking, Paleoindians most closely resemble modern Asians. However, finer resolution of the issue is hampered by a lack of sufficiently complete human remains of sufficient antiquity that can potentially shed more light on the issue. The Wilson-Leonard II (WL-II) burial from central Texas is one of ~10 mostly complete adult human skeletons from North America confidently dated to ~10,000 BP or older. Unfortunately, while the skull of WL-II is nearly complete, it was compressed to approximately 1/3 its original M-L width. A forensic sculptor provided a reconstruction, but it was not done in a manner to allow accurate anatomical measurements. The present study uses high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT) data to reconstruct the skull of WL-II in order to obtain reliable cranial measurements which can be used to examine the degree of similarity to Paleoindians of comparable age and to other Late Pleistocene/Holocene populations from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Results verify previously identified trends in Paleoindian cranial morphology (i.e., longer, narrower braincases; small, relatively narrow, and somewhat prognathic faces) and support the assertion that Paleoindians are broadly similar to a generalized Asian stock, at least in terms of cranial morphology. Implications for Paleoindian biological affinity and competing theories of the peopling of the Americas are discussed.