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Keywords:

  • limb proportions;
  • bi-iliac breadth;
  • stature;
  • Paleoindian;
  • Beringian Standstill Hypothesis

Abstract

The movement of humans into the Americas remains a major topic of debate among scientific disciplines. Central to this discussion is ascertaining the timing and migratory routes of the earliest colonizers, in addition to understanding their ancestry. Molecular studies have recently argued that the colonizing population was isolated from other Asian populations for an extended period before proceeding to colonize the Americas. This research has suggested that Beringia was the location of this “incubation,” though archaeological and skeletal data have not yet supported this hypothesis. This study employs the remains of the five most complete North American male early Holocene skeletons to examine patterns of human morphology at the earliest observable time period. Stature, body mass, body breadth, and limb proportions are examined in the context of male skeletal samples representing the range of morphological variation in North America in the last two millennia of the Holocene. These are also compared with a global sample. Results indicate that early Holocene males have variable postcranial morphologies, but all share the common trait of wide bodies. This trait, which is retained in more recent indigenous North American groups, is associated with adaptations to cold climates. Peoples from the Americas exhibit wider bodies than other populations sampled globally. This pattern suggests the common ancestral population of all of these indigenous American groups had reduced morphological variation in this trait. Furthermore, this provides support for a single, possibly high latitude location for the genetic isolation of ancestors of the human colonizers of the Americas. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.