, Volume 52, Issue 12, pp 1661-1668

Craniofacial morphological microevolution of Holocene populations in northern China

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Abstract

In order to better understand microevolutionary processes in Holocene Chinese craniofacial mor-phology, an analysis has been done on 21 metric traits on Neolithic (n=161), Bronze Age (n=423) and modern (n=134) adult male skulls from northern China. The results indicate that the physical characters of these Chinese populations evolved throughout the Holocene. From the Neolithic to Bronze Age to present day, general trends include: cranial and facial sizes decrease; the nose gets narrower and longer; the orbits become narrower and higher; the head is more globular. The expression of the cranial features varies between the different time periods. The decrease in cranial size primarily occurred from the Bronze Age to present day. However, the decrease in facial size, the narrowing of the nose, and the elevation of the orbits took place throughout the Holocene. These traits are likely still evolving. This evolving pattern of the cranial features for the Holocene Chinese populations is similar to that found elsewhere in the world. The decrease in overall craniofacial size is associated with changes in climate and diet. In addition, it is possible that the craniofacial morphological microevolution is controlled by human evolutionary mechanisms.

Supported by the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sci-ences (Grant No. KZCX2-YW-106), Major Basic Research Projects (Grant No. 2006CB806400), Jilin University “985 Projects”, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China for Fostering Talents in Basic Research Special Research Dis-ciplinary Unit (Grant Nos. J0530189 and J0530184)