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Abstract

We report here on new data examining cranial variation in 18 modern human sub-Saharan African populations. Previously, we investigated variation within southern Africa; we now extend our analyses to include a series of Central, East, and West African crania, to further knowledge of the relationships between, and variation and regional morphological patterning in, those populations. The sample comprises 377 male individuals; the three-dimensional coordinates of 96 landmarks are analyzed using Procrustes-based methods. Interpopulation variation is examined by calculating shape distances between groups, which are compared using resampling statistics and parametric tests. Phenotypic variance, as a proxy for genetic variance, is measured and compared across populations. Principal components and cluster analyses are employed to explore relationships between the populations. Shape differences are visualized using three-dimensional rendered models. Observed disparity patterns imply a mix of differences and similarities across populations, with no apparent support for genetic bottlenecks, which is likely a consequence of migrations that may have influenced differences in cranial form; supporting data are found in recent molecular studies. The Pygmy sample had the most distinctive cranial morphology; characteristically small in size with marked prognathism. These features characterized, although less strongly, the neighboring Bateke, and are possibly related to similar selective pressures in conjunction with interbreeding. Small cranial size is also involved in the considerable distinctiveness of the San and Khoikhoi. The statistical procedures applied in this study afford a powerful and robust means of quantifying and visualizing the magnitude and pattern of cranial variation between sub-Saharan African populations. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.