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Keywords:

  • dental anthropology;
  • phenetic affinity;
  • population history;
  • Khoesan;
  • South Africa

ABSTRACT

The present report follows up on the findings of previous research, including recent bioarchaeological study of well-dated Khoesan skeletal remains, that posits long term biological continuity among the indigenous peoples of South Africa after the Pleistocene. The Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System was used to record key crown, root, and intraoral osseous nonmetric traits in six early-through-late Holocene samples from the Cape coasts. Based on these data, phenetic affinities and an identification of traits most important in driving intersample variation were determined using principal components analysis and the mean measure of divergence distance statistic. To expand biological affinity comparisons into more recent times, and thus preliminarily assess the dental impact of disproportionate non-Khoesan gene flow into local peoples, dental data from historic Khoekhoe and San were also included. Results from the prehistoric comparisons are supportive of population continuity, though a sample from Matjes River Rockshelter exhibits slight phenetic distance from other early samples. This and some insignificant regional divergence among these coastal samples may be related to environmental and cultural factors that drove low-level reproductive isolation. Finally, a close affinity of historic San to all samples, and a significant difference of Khoekhoe from most early samples is reflective of documented population history following immigration of Bantu-speakers and, later, Europeans into South Africa. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:33–44, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.