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Nonmetric cranial variation of Jomon Japan: Implications for the evolution of eastern Asian diversity

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Abstract

Objectives

The purpose of this study is to investigate the origin and expansion of the Jomon population, the Neolithic inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago, and peopling East/Northeast Asian region through a global comparison between the prehistoric samples from around the world.

Methods

R-matrix approach was applied to 20 nonmetric cranial traits for assessing the population structure and history of the Jomon. Pattern of ancient group relationships on a global scale was presented using network splitstree applied to distance matrix transformed from the R-matrix.

Results

The phenotypic variation is largest in Hokkaido region, followed by the regions of eastern Japan. The Chugoku region, the southwestern part of Japan, shows larger variance than eastern Japan. Global analyses including samples from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, West Asia, Europe, and North Africa dating roughly to the same chronological periods as those of the Jomon groups, indicate northern affinities of the Jomon and the distinction between Southeast and Northeast Asian series.

Conclusion

The Jomon ancestors of the northern part of Japan might have expanded southward to Honshu Island with a series of bottlenecks. A possible gene flow from outside source or heterogeneous origin of western Jomon group was, at the same time, suggested. The network relationships of the Jomon with Northeast Asians and, to a lesser extent, with Southeast Asians based on the splitstree analysis may allow us to suppose that the Jomon may be one of the key populations for the studies of the evolution of eastern Asian diversity. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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