Influence of cranial deformation on facial morphology among prehistoric South Central Andean populations


  • Matthew P. Rhode,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri 65201
    • Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri-Columbia, 107 Swallow Hall, Columbia, MO 65201
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  • Bernardo T. Arriaza

    1. Centro de Investigaciones del Hombre en el Desierto, Departamento de Arqueología y Museología, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile
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Calculating biodistances among South American populations using cranial measurements is often hindered, as many available skeletal collections exhibit deformation. Acknowledging vault modifications, researchers have sought measurements in other regions which are unaffected by deformation. In the 1970s, a set of 10 “relatively” unaffected facial measurements was identified in Argentinean crania that later became the basis of numerous South American biodistance studies. These measurements include: minimum frontal breadth, bizygomatic breadth, orbit height, orbit breadth, palate breath, palate length, upper facial height, basion-prosthion length, nasal height, and nasal breadth. Palate length was excluded from the present analysis due to considerable measurement error. The suitability of these measurements in populations other than Argentineans has not been rigorously tested. Using a sample of 350 prehistoric crania from the Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa (MASMA, Arica, Chile), this project tested the hypothesis that these measurements are unaffected by either annular or tabular deformation. Results obtained from MANOVA analysis indicate this hypothesis cannot be fully supported. Among males, only 3 of the 9 measurements are unaffected by either form of deformation (palate breadth, basion-prosthion length, and nasal breadth), while analysis of females indicates that 4 of the 9 measurements remain unaltered (minimum frontal breadth, orbit breadth, basion-prosthion length, and nasal breadth). Additionally, analogous to the vault, facial measurements display patterns consistent with the deformation applied. Two implications can be drawn from this research: 1) previous studies using these measurements must be interpreted cautiously, and 2) researchers using these measurements must explicitly test their suitability in each population. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.