The Homo erectus calvaria from Hexian, Anhui province, China is an important component of the fossil sample from East Asia. This specimen is the most complete Chinese H. erectus cranium found outside Zhoukoudian. Previous work has shown that the fossil crania from Zhoukoudian exhibit a unique metric pattern not seen in specimens from Africa or Indonesia. Multivariate statistics that assess the statistical significance of distances have not been used to compare the Hexian cranium to other relevant fossils, and this has hampered our appreciation of the pattern and magnitude of variation in the Chinese fossil record. This study involves the use of Mahalanobis distances to examine the variation present in a large sample of Homo erectus crania. Two separate examinations utilizing up to 7 measurements on 15 crania were performed to maximize the number of available specimens. Random expectation statistics were then used to test for significance between these fossils. Our results highlight clear metric dissimilarities between the Hexian calvaria and the fossils from Zhoukoudian. These metric patterns also separate Hexian from Zhoukoudian V, a skull with which it shares some more modern non-metric features. Our results indicate a greater degree of variation in the human fossil sample from China than has previously been recognized.
- Homo erectus