Biological evolution and population change in the European Upper Palaeolithic
Schumann, Betsy Ann
University of Cambridge
Department of Biological Anthropology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Schumann, B. A. (1995). Biological evolution and population change in the European Upper Palaeolithic (Doctoral thesis).
The European Upper Palaeolithic, from 45,000 to 10,000 BP, marks the first appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens in Europe. The skeletal morphology of these earliest modern humans has played a large role in the debate over modern human origins. While it is important to investigate the various origins theories and examine available fossil data in conjunction with modern, present day skeletal material, studies of late Pleistocene evolutionary change remain inconclusive. The work which has been conducted on Upper Palaeolithic cranial change has proposed that there are regional patterns and differences in cranial robusticity which has been interpreted as genetic admixture between Neanderthals and modern humans and chronological patterns which indicate systematic gracilization in cranial and dental morphology. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the earliest modern humans from the late Pleistocene were morphologically different from recent modern human populations. Therefore, it is not only necessary to examine the changes that occurred which lead to our modernity and the archaic-modern relationship but it appears equally paramount to examine the continual evolutionary changes occurring after humans became modern, during the Late Palaeolithic. This study provides data from sixty European Upper Palaeolithic fossil hominids drawn from a 35,000 year period and from all parts of Europe. Metric and non-metric data were collected on cranial and dental material. The results are presented on the range of morphological variation in relation to a series of modern human controls. Patterns in cranial and dental variation are then tested within three frameworks: firstly, chronological trends in the Upper Palaeolithic; secondly, geographical (regional) distribution across Europe; and thirdly, in relation to the archaeological and behavioural record of the Upper Palaeolithic. The results are discussed in the context of the affinities of the first anatomically modern Europeans and the extent to which change or continuity can be observed over this period. The analysis for morphological change through time indicated that while there are several cranial featurcis which show a marked reduction throughout the Upper Palaeolithic and others which display a less severe 'trend' towards gracilization, these changes are attributable to specific, robust morphological characteristics of the Central European hominid material, rather than a general process of 'gracilization'. These results have implications for whether the European Upper Palaeolithic is characterised by indigenous population changes or subject to external influences, as well as the relationship between biological evolution and the archaeological record.
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/252068
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