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Keywords:

  • body size estimation;
  • South America;
  • archaeology

Abstract

Adult stature and body mass represent fundamental biological characteristics of individuals and populations, as they are relevant to a range of problems from assessing nutrition and health to longer term evolutionary processes. Stature and body mass estimation from skeletal dimensions are therefore key to addressing biological and social questions about past populations. Anatomical reconstruction provides the most direct proxy for living stature but is only suitable for well-preserved remains. Regression equations for estimating stature from bone lengths are therefore extremely useful, though it is well recognized that differences in body proportions limit the cross-application of equations between samples. Here, we assess the accuracy of published stature estimation equations from worldwide and New World groups applied to archaeological samples from the central Andean coast and highlands of South America. As no existing equations are clearly appropriate, new sample-specific regression equations are presented. Anatomical stature reconstruction is further complicated by artificial cranial modification (ACM) influencing cranial height in Andean samples, so this problem is investigated in the current sample. Although ACM has minimal impact here, the possibility should be explored in other samples before anatomical stature estimation is attempted. Recommendations are also made for estimating body mass from femoral head diameter. The mean of three previously published equations is shown to offer minimal bias and the most reliable estimate of body mass in the study samples. Am J Phys Anthropol 147:264–279, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.