Craniometric variation of the Ainu: An assessment of differential gene flow from Northeast Asia into Northern Japan, Hokkaido



In and after the latest Neolithic period in Japan (∼B.P. 2,300 years), there were two distinct waves of migration from eastern Asia. One is well known as successive episodes in which indigenous inhabitants of main-island Japan were intruded on by new arrivals with advanced technology, and of a different genetic stock. Another migration of people and culture, identified as the Okhotsk culture, reached the northeastern part of Hokkaido. As opposed to main-island Japan, the morphological continuity from the Neolithic to recent inhabitants in Hokkaido (Ainu) is notable, so that the evidence of admixture easily could have escaped notice. In this study, the effects of gene flow from an outside source on the pattern of among-group variation of Hokkaido Ainu are examined by means of two models. One is the R-matrix model comparing observed and expected craniometric variation for estimating differential external gene flow into a region. The other is a simple simulation model that estimates admixture in a population with two parental populations. The two approaches give similar results. The results suggest the possibility of admixture between the migrants from Northeast Asia, the Okhotsk culture people, and the indigenous inhabitants in Hokkaido during the 5th to 12th centuries A.D., at least in northeastern Hokkaido. Such gene flow may have a certain degree of effect on the genetic structure of recent Ainu. The findings further suggest morphological heterogeneity in Northeast Asia during the Holocene that has relevance for understanding the morphological heterogeneity seen through time in the New World. Am J Phys Anthropol 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.