• Cranial variables;
  • European populations;
  • Numerical taxonomy;
  • Secular changes;
  • Linguistic-morphometric correlations


We analyze the taxonomic structure of European populations at three time periods, the Early Middle Ages, the Late Middle Ages and the Recent Period. The data consist of sample means for 10 cranial variables based on 137, 108, and 183 samples for the three periods. Clustering by standard numerical taxonomic procedures reveals that the data are represented only poorly as hierarchic classifications. The clusters form significant and moderately strong associations with an arrangement of the samples by regions (geography) and by language family. Whereas during the early period, language family showed a stronger association with clusters based on cranial morphology, in the recent populations these clusters correspond better with geography than with language. Ordinations of these populations by means of nonmetric multidimensional scaling shows the continuity of the taxonomic structure at all three periods. Only a few populations are outliers. The relations between phenetic distances (cranial morphology), geography, and language are examined by means of multiple Mantel tests. At all three periods geography is correlated somewhat more strongly with phenetics than is language affiliation, but the correlation with the latter increases with time. When the data are pooled over the three periods, the populations tend to group by language affiliation more than they do by period. Ordination of the pooled data reveals language patterns rather than patterns due to period, showing strong shifts in cranial measurements through time. These analyses show that while there is no clear-cut taxonomic structure in European populations that would justify the traditional classifications based on the crania, there are significant and important associations with both language affiliation, geography, and time period, in this order. These patterns are likely to have become established through the migration and subsequent expansion of populations into their areas of occupation during the time interval studied rather than by geographic differentiation in situ.