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Keywords:

  • paleoindians;
  • cranial morphology;
  • morphometric analyses;
  • multivariate analyses

Abstract

Human skeletal remains of the first Americans are scarce, especially in North America. In South America the situation is less dramatic. Two important archaeological regions have generated important collections that allow the analysis of the cranial morphological variation of the Early Americans: Lagoa Santa, Brazil, and Sabana de Bogotá, Colombia. Human crania from the former region have been studied by one of us (WAN) and collaborators, showing that the cranial morphology of the first South Americans was very different from that prevailing today in East Asia and among Native Americans. These results have allowed for proposing that the New World may have been colonized by two different biological populations in the final Pleistocene/early Holocene. In this study, 74 human skulls dated between 11.0 and 3.0 kyr, recovered in seven different sites of Sabana de Bogotá, Colombia, were compared with the world cranial variation by different multivariate techniques: Principal Components Analysis, Multidimensional Scaling, and Cluster of Mahalanobis distance matrices. The Colombian skeletal remains were divided in two chronological subgroups: Paleocolombians (11.0–6.0 kyr) and Archaic Colombians (5.0–3.0 kyr). Both quantitative techniques generated convergent results: the Paleocolombians show remarkable similarities with Lagoa Santa and with modern Australo-Melanesians. Archaic Colombians exhibited the same morphological patterns and associations. These findings support our long-held proposition that the early American settlement may have involved two very distinct biological populations coming from Asia. On the other hand, they suggest the possibility of late survivals of the Paleoamerican pattern not restricted to isolated or marginal areas, as previously thought. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.