• craniometric variation;
  • Modern day;
  • Neolithic age;
  • northern Chinese;
  • southern Chinese


Previous studies propose that the Yangtze River is the geographic boundary separating northern and southern Chinese populations. In order to test this hypothesis, 19 Neolithic and 15 Modern human cranial samples from north of the Qinling Mountain Range, south of the Yangtze River and in between were chosen for morphometric analysis. Our results indicate that cranial variation exists in Holocene Neolithic and Modern northern and southern Chinese. In the Neolithic sample, the northern Chinese crania are characterised by greater upper face height and orbit height, while the southern Chinese skulls are depicted by a wider nose. The morphology of the crania between the Qinling Mountain range and the Yangtze River feature a mosaic of characters that suggest affiliation with both north and south groups. In the Modern day sample, northern crania are characterised by a broad and wide face, and a tall nose. From the Neolithic to Modern day, a series of microevolutionary processes that apply to both the northern and southern samples can be discerned. Overall, the head gets lower, the face and nose become narrower and the orbits tend to be narrower and higher. Our results support the suggestion that the Qinling Mountain Range and the Yangtze River represent a natural barrier to the movement of Chinese populations. Climatic variation and the transition to an agricultural lifestyle are proposed as the primary factors influencing human craniofacial morphologies. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.