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Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: Cranial Morphological Change in Three Regions of North America During the Early to Middle Holocene

The goal of this research is to obtain a better understanding of the evolutionary and environmental events that may have affected the biology of the initial migrants into the New World. Most of the research conducted on early Americans (Paleoindians and Early Archaic) has tended to compare their observed morphology to that of modern Native Americans, effectively ignoring 8,000 years of potential evolution. Additionally, the majority of the current research has been focused on the entire North American continent, paying little attention to the potential for regional variation.<br/> This research project will analyze the skeletal variation present among early to middle Holocene (10,000-2000 BP) skeletons from three distinct regions of North America (Great Lakes, Great Basin, Southeast). The variation and potential change through time of the skull shape will be assessed using multivariate statistical techniques. In order to help counteract small sample problems, randomization methods will be used. The data will also be used in several population genetic models to help determine which evolutionary factors may have affected the initial migrants. In addition, the parameters for several current "Peopling of the Americas" models will be used in population genetic computer simulations. The results from the simulations will be compared to the observed results to see which of the several models (and their corresponding implicit parameters) are most realistic considering the data.<br/> Data will be collected on relatively complete skulls from archaeological sites that date between 2000 BP and 10,000 BP and for which appropriate permissions have been obtained. The skulls are currently housed at several institutions throughout North America.<br/> This research will quantify the variation present among the first Americans, examine the Paleoindian/Archaic transition from a biological perspective, and elucidate the morphological history of Native Americans. Finally, by incorporating a regional approach, the proposed study will evaluate the potential environmental effects on this morphological history.

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