The Neolithic transition in Europe and North Africa. The functional craneology contribution.

Anthropol Anz 2004 Jun;62(2):129-45

UPR 2147 "Dynamique de l'Evolution Humaine", Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, France.

The origin and mode of the process that led to food production in Europe and North Africa is a matter intensively discussed. It is not clear in the transition to the Neolithic in these regions if it results by a migration of peoples from the Near East, by changes in the behaviour of local populations, or by an interaction of both processes. Morphological changes in Europe and North Africa, from the Upper Palaeolithic to modern periods were assessed. A method based on the Functional Matrix Hypothesis was carried out, which implies that the bone shape is modified by the related soft tissues. Absolute and relative size and shape changes were estimated on two major--neural and facial--and eight minor--anteroneural, midneural, posteroneural, otic, optic, respiratory, masticatory and alveolar--functional cranial components (FCC). ANOVA and Canonical Correlation analyses indicate that neither a temporal trend nor a pattern characteristic of each region is evidenced. But a shift is observed between the Upper Palaeolithic groups and the later samples. Size is greater in the Upper Palaeolithics. Shape is modified because Upper Palaeolithics have greater midneural and masticatory FCCs, and smaller optic FCC. The greater masticatory volume is associated to wider faces in hunter-gatherers. Our study cannot enable to conclude if the morphological shift is caused by a replacement or by a change in the local populations, however, the morphological changes can be attributed to the reduced mobility and the masticatory stress since the Neolithic period.

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June 2004

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