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Keywords:

  • La Florida missions;
  • dental variability;
  • European contact;
  • microevolution

Abstract

Evolutionary trends and population history and structure are discussed for a series of late prehistoric and historic-period skeletal samples from the Georgia coast and interior (the Guale). Phenotypic dental measurement data were collected for nine samples from the late prehistoric (AD 1200–1400) and historic (AD 1608–1702) periods and subjected to population genetic and statistical analyses. The primary trends were for an increase in tooth size through time, and for an initial increase in dental variability in the early historic period, followed by a subsequent decline in dental variability in the late historic period. Given the increasing stress levels, evidenced by previous bioarchaeological analyses (Larsen [2001] Bioarchaeology of Spanish Florida, Gainesville: University Press of Florida), an environmental explanation for the increase in tooth size is unlikely. It is proposed that the early historic period witnessed aggregation and gene flow with extraregional populations, possibly African slaves or nonlocal Native American population groups. The late historic period may have experienced significant loss of phenotypic variability due to genetic drift. In both time periods, the evolutionary mechanism increased average tooth size, with independent variance effects.

Because microevolutionary trends obscure patterns of gene flow and population ancestry, the data were detrended following Konigsberg ([1990a] Hum. Biol. 62:49–70), and submitted to standard population genetic analyses (Relethford et al. [1997] Hum. Biol. 69:443–465). Analysis of the precontact samples in isolation (Irene Mound, Irene Mortuary, and an aggregate coastal sample) indicated little genetic microdifferentiation (FST = 0.008), limited extralocal gene flow, and a small distinction between interior and coastal samples. The inclusion of the historic data dramatically increased variability levels (FST = 0.019). The analysis of extralocal gene flow indicates that the late mission period experienced significantly less external gene flow, which is consistent with historic models that suggest the social organization of the Guale during this time period may have been significantly altered. Genetic distances also indicate a primary division between inland and coastal precontact samples and a maintenance of biological populations along the coast. In other words, the coastal, early historic, and late historic period samples are phenotypically homogenous, supporting the notion that the mission populations were drawn from the local population base. The late mission period sample was also, however, more closely related to the interior samples. This may suggest that the late mission period population was an aggregate sample composed of both remnant interior and coastal population groups. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.