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Keywords:

  • human crania;
  • Southern-Americas peopling;
  • early American skulls

Abstract

The cranial morphology of Early Holocene American human samples is characterized by a long and narrow cranial vault, whereas more recent samples exhibit a shorter and wider cranial vault. Two hypotheses have been proposed to account for the morphological differences between early and late-American samples: (a) the migratory hypothesis that suggests that the morphological variation between early and late American samples was the result of a variable number of migratory waves; and (b) the local diversification hypothesis, that is, the morphological differences between early and late American samples were mainly generated by local, random (genetic drift), and nonrandom factors (selection and phenotypic plasticity). We present the first craniometric study of three early skulls from the Argentinean Pampas, dated ∼8,000 cal. years BP (Arroyo Seco 2, Chocorí, and La Tigra), and one associated with mega-faunal remains (Fontezuelas skull). In addition, we studied several Late Holocene samples. We show that the skulls from the Argentinean Pampas are morphologically similar to other Early Holocene American skulls (i.e., Lagoa Santa from Brazil, Tequendama, Checua, and Aguazuque from Colombia, Lauricocha from Peru, and early Mexicans) that exhibit long and narrow cranial vaults. These samples differ from the Late Holocene American samples that exhibit a shorter and wider cranial vault. Our results underscore the important differences in cranial morphology between early and late-American samples. However, we emphasize the need for further studies to discuss alternative hypotheses regarding such differences. Am J Phys Anthropol 143:298–305, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.