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Quantitative analysis of Neanderthal temporal bone morphology using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics



The temporal bone is the location of several traits thought to differentiate Neanderthals from modern humans, including some proposed Neanderthal-derived traits. Most of these, however, are difficult to measure and are usually described qualitatively. This study applied the techniques of geometric morphometrics to the complex morphology of the temporal bone, in order to quantify the differences observed between Neanderthal and modern human anatomy. Two hundred and seventy modern human crania were measured, representing 9 populations of 30 individuals each, and spanning the extremes of the modern human geographical range. Twelve Neanderthal specimens, as well as Reilingen, Kabwe, Skhul 5, Qafzeh 9, and 4 Late Paleolithic European specimens, were included in the fossil sample. The data were collected in the form of three-dimensional (3-D) landmark coordinates, and specimen configurations were superimposed using generalized Procrustes analysis. The fitted coordinates were then analyzed by an array of multivariate statistical methods, including principal components analysis, canonical variates analysis, and Mahalanobis D2. The temporal bone landmark analysis was very successful in separating Neanderthals from modern humans. Neanderthals were separated from modern humans in both the principal components and canonical variates analyses. They were much further in Mahalanobis distances from all modern human populations than any two modern human groups were from each other. Most of the previously described temporal bone traits contributed to this separation. Am J Phys Anthropol 120:323–338, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.