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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2007 Sep;134(1):9-23.

Robusticity and sexual dimorphism in the postcranium of modern hunter-gatherers from Australia.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Old Westbury, NY 11568-8000, USA. kcarlson@nyit.edu

Abstract

Throughout much of prehistory, humans practiced a hunting and gathering subsistence strategy. Elevated postcranial robusticity and sexually dimorphic mobility patterns are presumed consequences of this strategy, in which males are attributed greater robusticity and mobility than females. Much of the basis for these trends originates from populations where skeletal correlates of activity patterns are known (e.g., cross-sectional geometric properties of long bones), but in which activity patterns are inferred using evidence such as archaeological records (e.g., Pleistocene Europe). Australian hunter-gatherers provide an opportunity to critically assess these ideas since ethnographic documentation of their activity patterns is available. We address the following questions: do skeletal indicators of Australian hunter-gatherers express elevated postcranial robusticity and sexually dimorphic mobility relative to populations from similar latitudes, and do ethnographic accounts support these findings. Using computed tomography, cross-sectional images were obtained from 149 skeletal elements including humeri, radii, ulnae, femora, and tibiae. Cross-sectional geometric properties were calculated from image data and standardized for body size. Australian hunter-gatherers often have reduced robusticity at femoral and humeral midshafts relative to forager (Khoi-San), agricultural/industrialized (Zulu), and industrialized (African American) groups. Australian hunter-gatherers display more sexual dimorphism in upper limb robusticity than lower limb robusticity. Attributing specific behavioral causes to upper limb sexual dimorphism is premature, although ethnographic accounts support sex-specific differences in tool use. Virtually absent sexual dimorphism in lower limb robusticity is consistent with ethnographic accounts of equivalently high mobility among females and males. Thus, elevated postcranial robusticity and sexually dimorphic mobility do not always characterize hunter-gatherers.

(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

PMID:
17503447
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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