• Australopithecus;
  • Homo;
  • nasal cavity;
  • vomer;
  • comparative anatomy


Quantitative and qualitative assessments of subnasal morphology in fossil hominids yield distinct patterns which have been used both to sort robust from nonrobust australopithecine taxa and to distinguish individual species. Recently, new developmental models have been applied to hominoid subnasal morphological variation. These studies require that certain features of the fossil hominid subnasal region, in particular the topography of the nasal cavity entrance and details of vomeral morphology, be reevaluated. This study does so for the robust and nonrobust australopithecines, early Homo (H. habilis/H. rudolfensis), and African H. erectus. Results reaffirm an overall similarity of the nonrobust Australopithecus subnasal morphological pattern with that of the chimpanzee. They further indicate that a vomeral insertion above the nasal surface of the premaxilla should be added to the list of traits characteristic of the robust australopithecine subnasal morphological pattern. Finally, reassessment of subnasal morphology in the early Homo and H. erectus samples from Africa suggest that these two taxa share a similar subnasal morphological pattern. This pattern consists of a smooth nasal cavity entrance, a horizontal nasal sill whose anterior edge is demarcated by a strong nasal crest, and a well-developed horizontal spine at the posterior edge of the nasal sill. Although none of the African fossil Homo specimens preserve a vomer, indirect evidence suggests that it would have inserted above the nasal sill. Am J Phys Anthropol 112:275–283, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.