Artificial cranial deformation and fossil Australians revisited

Susan C. Anton, Karen J. Weinstein

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Based on cranial characters shared by Homo erectus in Java and Homo sapiens in Australia, Australasia is widely considered the strongest case for a regional origin of modern humans. However, artificial vault deformation has been suggested to be the cause of 'archaic' characters such as frontal recession in key fossil Australian crania. We use log-log plots of cranial arc versus chord measurements and we score nonmetric traits often thought to be associated with artificial deformation to make systematic comparisons across groups and deformation types to identify universal consequences of artificial deformation. Based on our large comparative sample (n=588) apparatus-deformed crania have flatter frontals and occipitals and usually more angulated parietals in the sagittal plane than undeformed crania, regardless of deformation type. Fossil Australian samples exhibit evidence of both undeformed and deformed individuals. The sample from Coobool Creek provides evidence that undeformed individuals had more rounded frontals than recent Australians. However, many individuals from Coobool Creek, Kow Swamp, and Nacurrie exhibit modification of one or more cranial contours. The Kow Swamp individuals in particular plot with deformed crania from all regions. In addition, the frequency of hyperostotic traits such as bregmatic eminence, metopic and sagittal keels in H. sapiens is influenced by both artificial deformation and pathological hypervascularity/hyperostosis. Thus it is unwise to use cranial contours and these nonmetric traits to infer genetic relatedness between Fossil Australians and Indonesian H. erectus.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)195-209
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Human Evolution
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Feb 1999


    • Cranial contours
    • Homo erectus
    • Origin of H. sapiens

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Anthropology


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