September 18, 2004

Craniometric study on Neolithic dispersals

CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 45, Number S4, August-October 2004

A Regional Biological Approach to the Spread of Farming in Europe Anatolia, the Levant, South-Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean

by Ron Pinhasi and Mark Pluciennik

This article examines the potential contribution of archaeological human skeletal material, in particular craniometric data, to interpretations of the nature of the transition to farming in Europe. The material is discussed particularly in relation to recent debates about demographic variables and processes and modern genetic frequency patterns. It is suggested that biological morphometrics enables the comparison of ancient populations on a regional basis. Analysis of the material suggests that there was considerable morphological heterogeneity among the earliest farmers of the Levant belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic but that similar variability is generally not seen among the earliest mainland agriculturalists of south-eastern Europe. We propose that this may be explained by the existence of a genetic "bottleneck" among Anatolian populations and that it supports models of the largely exogenous origin of many early Neolithic populations in this region. Regional comparisons further demonstrate a biologically more complex relationship between Mesolithic and Neolithic populations in the central and western Mediterranean. The regional and chronological variability of transitions to farming is stressed, and it is pointed out that different techniques highlight different aspects of the processes involved at a range of scales and resolutions.


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