The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)

Population movements throughout northern Africa during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

April 22, 2017 , Studio 4/5 Add to calendar

The improving climate of the Holocene witnessed rapid expansion of human populations into and throughout northern Africa over a relatively short period of time. Scholars have debated the source of these population movements for decades, with little agreement. Archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests a westward expansion from the Nile Valley. Physical anthropological evidence suggests movement from the Maghreb south into the western and central Sahara. Climate data suggests a south to north movement of peoples as populations were drawn further north with an improving climate. This poster presents new evidence from the Holocene assemblage of Gobero combined with comparative data from Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites from west and east Africa in addition to the Nile Valley and Maghreb. Data are presented on craniometrics, dental morphology, limb bone proportions, and dental ablation patterns. Craniometric data suggest Early Holocene connections to the Maghreb, an inference supported by dental ablation patterns, with no similarity to the Iwo Eleru skull. Dental morphological data, however, suggest a mosaic of north and sub-Saharan African morphology. Consideration of limb bone proportions presents a tropically adapted body morphology consistent with sub-Saharan African affinities for all burials from Gobero. Both dental morphological and long bone data sets indicate population continuity throughout the Holocene sequences at Gobero, which contradicts the craniometric data. These different signals must be interpreted cautiously given the challenges with spatio-temporal variation and access to archaeological samples of the appropriate age for evolutionary comparisons.