ref: Before Farming 2010/3 article 1

A geometric morphometric approach to cranial variation of southeast Asians in a global context

Hayley Green
Department of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology
Sydney, Australia

Keywords: Southeast Asia, shape, Morphologika, crania, geometric morphometrics


This study examines cranial shape variation of modern and near-modern southeast Asians in a global context, expanding on earlier studies by utilising geometric morphometric techniques to gain new perspectives. The three-dimensional co-ordinates of 54 landmarks from six southeast Asian and five comparative populations (143 individuals) were analysed using the shape analysis software, Morphologika. Variation of cranial shape was examined by calculating Procrustes distances between samples; a cluster analysis was then used to summarise phenetic relationships. Principal components analysis and thin plate splines allowed for the statistical and visual exploration of shape differences. Results of the Procrustes distances, cluster analysis and PCA show a distinct separation between the southeast Asian samples and comparative samples from northeast Asia, Australia, Africa and the United Kingdom. Observed shape differences include rendered images and thin plate splines depicting a relative globular shaped vault, flat upper face and narrow facial breadth as characteristic of southeast Asians. These features do not appear to have a significant association with size or latitude, suggesting the presence of an underlying genetic signal. The shape of the midface, frontal bone and alveolar region were, however, among cranial features that did exhibit a significant correlation with latitude. Results of this study are tentative given the limited nature of the dataset (eg, small sample sizes). Despite this, the findings support recent consensus views that cranial morphology is indicative of both genetic relationships and environmental influences, which has important implications for the use of cranial morphology to infer population histories.


ref: Before Farming 2010/3 article 2

Neanderthals and us: conflicting new interpretations on our  relationship to each other

Paul SC Taçon
PERAHU, School of Humanities, Gold Coast campus, Griffith University
Queensland 4222, Australia

Keywords: Neanderthals, behavioural modernity, modern humans, interbreeding


Recent archaeological, fossil and genetic discoveries involving Neanderthals, as well as new interpretations of Neanderthal behaviour, are reviewed in order to examine how similar or different Neanderthals were to early modern humans and, ultimately, to us. It is argued that Neanderthals have been cast in a bad light since their discovery in the 1850s and that prejudice still pervades much research. However, the most extreme views can easily be discounted and a new picture of Neanderthal behaviour and society is emerging. New genetic studies are confirming ideas about interbreeding to the extent that it appears there is a bit of Neanderthal in all people outside of sub-Saharan Africa. It is concluded that the next decade will reveal ever more myth-shattering discoveries,
especially in east Asia.


ref: Before Farming 2010/3 article 3

Global human variation: polarised positions and alternative

Colin Pardoe
Honorary Fellow, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Melbourne, Australia
16 Hackett Gardens, Turner ACT 2612 Australia

Keywords: Human origins, Regional Continuity, Replacement, Assimilation, population biology, Australia, craniometric analysis


For three decades, the relative merits of two models for the origin of modern humans - Regional Continuity (Multiregionalism) and Replacement (Out of Africa) - have been hotly contested. Evidence from Australia has been central to both models. This paper examines some of the concepts that underpin this debate and highlights the points on which the differences turn. It is argued that although the different models are largely irreconcilable, understanding of individual philosophical orientations might allow researchers to translate between models. Assimilation, often presented as a convergent or synthetic view, is modelled with counter-intuitive results. The problems inherent in construction of sophisticated models based on limited data with insecure chronology are
addressed. Finally, the phylogenetic question of the ancestry of some of the ancient Australian individuals is turned on it head and descendant populations are examined. Morphological similarities between terminal Pleistocene skeletons from Kow Swamp and Coobool, and their much younger late Holocene regional descendants, demonstrate that small scale regional continuity can persist for millennia in the face of significant environmental change.




© Western Academic & Specialist Press Ltd 2010