May 09, 2009

Cranial diversity in Pleistocene Africa and Europe

From the paper:
The results of the bootstrap analyses conducted in this study are compatible with the suggestion from genetic studies that living humans represent only a restricted part of past modern human variation (Underhill et al., 2000; Excoffier, 2002; Marth et al., 2003; Fagundes et al., 2007). Certainly the European and North African Upper Paleolithic samples appear to exhibit greater craniometric variability than recent human samples. Our results appear to accord with the conclusions reached by Manica et al. (2007), von Cramon-Taubadel and Lycett (2008), and Betti et al. (2009) regarding the proportional relationship between recent within-population craniometric diversity and geographic distance from eastern Africa.
Very related:

American Journal of Physical Anthropology doi:10.1002/ajpa.21080

Modern human cranial diversity in the Late Pleistocene of Africa and Eurasia: Evidence from Nazlet Khater, Pestera cu Oase, and Hofmeyr

Isabelle Crevecoeur et al.


The origin and evolutionary history of modern humans is of considerable interest to paleoanthropologists and geneticists alike. Paleontological evidence suggests that recent humans originated and expanded from an African lineage that may have undergone demographic crises in the Late Pleistocene according to archaeological and genetic data. This would suggest that extant human populations derive from, and perhaps sample a restricted part of the genetic and morphological variation that was present in the Late Pleistocene. Crania that date to Marine Isotope Stage 3 should yield information pertaining to the level of Late Pleistocene human phenotypic diversity and its evolution in modern humans. The Nazlet Khater (NK) and Hofmeyr (HOF) crania from Egypt and South Africa, together with penecontemporaneous specimens from the Petera cu Oase in Romania, permit preliminary assessment of variation among modern humans from geographically disparate regions at this time. Morphometric and morphological comparisons with other Late Pleistocene modern human specimens, and with 23 recent human population samples, reveal that elevated levels of variation are present throughout the Late Pleistocene. Comparison of Holocene and Late Pleistocene craniometric variation through resampling analyses supports hypotheses derived from genetic data suggesting that present phenotypic variation may represent only a restricted part of Late Pleistocene human diversity. The Nazlet Khater, Hofmeyr, and Oase specimens provide a unique glimpse of that diversity.


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