Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA (Early view)
Cranial morphology of early Americans from Lagoa Santa, Brazil: Implications for the settlement of the New World
Walter A. Neves and Mark Hubbe
Comparative morphological studies of the earliest human skeletons of the New World have shown that, whereas late prehistoric, recent, and present Native Americans tend to exhibit a cranial morphology similar to late and modern Northern Asians (short and wide neurocrania; high, orthognatic and broad faces; and relatively high and narrow orbits and noses), the earliest South Americans tend to be more similar to present Australians, Melanesians, and Sub-Saharan Africans (narrow and long neurocrania; prognatic, low faces; and relatively low and broad orbits and noses). However, most of the previous studies of early American human remains were based on small cranial samples. Herein we compare the largest sample of early American skulls ever studied (81 skulls of the Lagoa Santa region) with worldwide data sets representing global morphological variation in humans, through three different multivariate analyses. The results obtained from all multivariate analyses confirm a close morphological affinity between South-American Paleoindians and extant Australo-Melanesians groups, supporting the hypothesis that two distinct biological populations could have colonized the New World in the Pleistocene/Holocene transition.