Brief communication: Artificial cranial modification in Kow Swamp and Cohuna

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Abstract

The crania from Kow Swamp and Cohuna have been important for a number of debates in Australian paleoanthropology. These crania typically have long, flat foreheads that many workers have cited as evidence of genetic continuity with archaic Indonesian populations, particularly the Ngandong sample. Other scientists have alleged that at least some of the crania from Kow Swamp and the Cohuna skull have been altered through artificial modification, and that the flat foreheads possessed by these individuals are not phylogenetically informative. In this study, several Kow Swamp crania and Cohuna are compared to known modified and unmodified comparative samples. Canonical variates analyses and Mahalanobis distances are generated, and random expectation statistics are used to calculate statistical significance for these tests. The results of this study agree with prior work indicating that a portion of this sample shows evidence for artificial modification of the cranial vault. Many Kow Swamp crania and Cohuna display shape similarities with a population of known modified individuals from New Britain. Kow Swamp 1, 5, and Cohuna show the strongest evidence for modification, but other individuals from this sample also show evidence of culturally manipulated changes in cranial shape. This project provides added support for the argument that at least some Pleistocene Australian groups were practicing artificial cranial modification, and suggests that caution should be used when including these individuals in phylogenetic studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-178
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume155
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Keywords

  • Australia
  • artificial cranial deformation
  • modern human origins

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