Facial projection--i.e., the position of the upper face relative to the anterior cranial fossa--is an important component of craniofacial architecture in primates. Study of its variation is therefore important to understanding the bases of primate craniofacial form. Such research is relevant to studies of human evolution because the condition in
Homo sapiens--in which facial projection is highly reduced, with the facial skeleton located primarily inferior (rather than anterior) to the braincase--is derived vis-à-vis other primates species, including others in the genus Homo. Previous research suggested that variation in facial projection is explained by: (1) cranial base angulation; (2) upper
facial length; (3) anterior cranial base length; (4) anterior sphenoid length; and/or (5) anterior middle cranial fossa length. However, previous research was based on taxonomically narrow samples and relatively small sample sizes, and comparative data on facial projection in anthropoid primates, with which these observations could be
contextualized, do not currently exist.
This dissertation fills this gap in knowledge. Specifically, data corresponding to the hypotheses listed above were collected from radiographs from a sample of anthropoid primates (N = 37 species; 756 specimens) . These data were subjected to phylogenetically-controlled multiple regression analyses. In addition, multivariate and univariate models were statistically compared, and the position of Homo sapiens relative to univariate and multivariate regression models was evaluated.
The results suggest that upper facial length, anterior cranial base length, and, to a lesser extent, cranial base angle are the most important predictors of facial projection. Homo sapiens conforms to the patterns found in anthropoid primates, suggesting that these same factors explain the condition in this species. However, a consideration of the
evidence from the fossil record in the context of these findings suggests that upper facial length is the most likely cause of the extremely low degree of facial projection in Homo sapiens. These results downplay the role of the brain in shaping the form of the human cranium. Instead, these results suggest that reduction in facial skeleton size--which may
be due to changes in diet--may be more important than previously suggested.