Modern human origins: Continuity, replacement, and masticatory robusticity in Australasia

Susan C. Antón, Hannah Carter-Menn, Valerie B. DeLeon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Morphological evidence for a Multiregional (MR) model of human origins is suggested by a series of "linking traits" seen in the crania of late Javanese Homo erectus from Ngandong and anatomically modern Australian crania. A few studies that consider the genetic, structural, or functional aspects of these regional traits suggest their appearance is heavily influenced not by shared phylogeny but by a common "strong" masticatory pattern. Using dental occlusal areas, external mandibular metrics, internal biomechanical properties of the mandibular corpus measured from CT scans, and nonmetric traits associated with the attachment of masticatory muscles, we test the hypothesis that Australians exhibit evidence of a "strong" masticatory pattern. We use a mixed-sex comparative human sample (n = 415) that includes precontact Alaskans from Point Hope and the Aleutian Islands, Californians, Peruvians, an urban forensic sample, and the late Pleistocene Afalou-Taforalt sample. In comparison with recent humans known to exhibit such patterns, Australian mandibles show none of the expected changes related to producing and dissipating heavy occlusal loads. This is true regardless of whether external or internal mandibular dimensions are considered, albeit Australians show large occlusal areas and relatively large section modulus indices. Thus, a prime functional argument proposed for the origin of some Australian regional features is not supported by these data.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)70-82
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Human Evolution
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2011


    • Homo sapiens
    • Mandibular architecture
    • Masticatory biomechanics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Anthropology


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