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Comparative and experimental investigations of cranial robusticity in mid-Pleistocene hominins

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Extremely thick cranial vaults have been noted as a diagnostic characteristic of Homo erectus since the first fossil of the species was identified, but potential mechanisms underlying this seemingly unique

Extremely thick cranial vaults have been noted as a diagnostic characteristic of Homo erectus since the first fossil of the species was identified, but potential mechanisms underlying this seemingly unique trait have not been rigorously investigated. Cranial vault thickness (CVT) is not a monolithic trait, and the responsiveness of its layers to environmental stimuli is unknown. Identifying factors that affect CVT would be exceedingly valuable in teasing apart potential contributors to thick vaults in the Pleistocene. Four hypotheses were tested using CT scans of skulls of more than 1100 human and non-human primates. Data on total frontal, parietal, and occipital bone thickness and bone composition were collected to test the hypotheses: H1. CVT is an allometric consequence of brain or body size. H2. Thick cranial vaults are a response to long, low cranial vault shape. H3. High masticatory stress causes localized thickening of cranial vaults. H4. Activity-mediated systemic hormone levels affect CVT. Traditional comparative methods were used to identify features that covary with CVT across primates to establish behavior patterns that might correlate with thick cranial vaults. Secondly, novel experimental manipulation of a model organism, Mus musculus, was used to evaluate the relative plasticity of CVT. Finally, measures of CVT in fossil hominins were described and discussed in light of the extant comparative and experimental results. This dissertation reveals previously unknown variation among extant primates and humans and illustrates that Homo erectus is not entirely unique among primates in its CVT. The research suggests that it is very difficult to make a mouse grow a thick head, although it can be genetically programmed to have one. The project also identifies a possible hominin synapomorphy: high diploë ratios compared to non-human primates. It also found that extant humans differ from non-human primates in overall pattern of which cranial vault bones are thickest. What this project was unable to do was definitively provide an explanation for why and how Homo erectus grew thick skulls. Caution is required when using CVT as a diagnostic trait for Homo erectus, as the results presented here underscore the complexity inherent in its evolution and development.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Ethnicity, family, and social networks: a multiscalar bioarchaeological investigation of Tiwanaku colonial organization in the Moquegua Valley, Peru

Description

Many models of colonial interaction are build from cases of European colonialism among Native American and African peoples, and, as a result, they are often ill-suited to account for state

Many models of colonial interaction are build from cases of European colonialism among Native American and African peoples, and, as a result, they are often ill-suited to account for state expansion and decline in non-Western contexts. This dissertation investigates social organization and intraregional interaction in a non-western colonial context to broaden understanding of colonial interaction in diverse sociocultural settings. Drawing on social identity theory, population genetics, and social network analysis, patterns of social organization at the margins of the expansive pre-Hispanic Tiwanaku state (ca. AD 500-1100) are examined.

According to the dual diaspora model of Tiwanaku colonial organization in the Moquegua Valley of southern Peru, Chen Chen-style and Omo-style ethnic communities who colonized the valley maintained distinct ethnic identities in part through endogamous marriage practices. Biodistance analysis of cranial shape data is used to evaluate regional gene flow among Tiwanaku-affiliated communities in Moquegua. Overall, results of biodistance analysis are consistent with the dual diaspora model. Omo- and Chen Chen-style communities are distinct in mean cranial shape, and it appears that ethnic identity structured gene flow between ethnic groups. However, there are notable exceptions to the overall pattern, and it appears that marriage practices were structured by multiple factors, including ethnic affiliation, geographic proximity, and smaller scales of social organization, such as corporate kin groups.

Social network analysis of cranial shape data is used to implement a multi- and mesoscalar approach to social organization to assess family-based organization at a regional level. Results indicate the study sample constituted a social network comprised of a dense main component and a number of isolated actors. Formal approaches for identifying potential family groups (i.e., subgroup analysis) proved more effective than informal approaches. While there is no clear partition of the network into distinct subgroups that could represent extended kin networks or biological lineages, there is a cluster of closely related individuals at the core of the network who integrate a web of less-closely related actors. Subgroup analysis yielded similar results as agglomerative hierarchical cluster analysis, which suggests there is potential for social network analysis to contribute to bioarchaeological studies of social organization and bioarchaeological research in general.

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Date Created
  • 2016