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Am J Hum Biol. 2000 May;12(3):327-338.

Secular change in craniofacial morphology.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.


Five craniofacial variables (glabella-occipital length, basion-bregma height, maximum cranial breadth, nasion-prosthion height, and bizygomatic breadth) were used to examine secular change in morphology from the mid-19(th) century to the 1970s. The 19(th) century data were obtained from the Terry and Hamann-Todd anatomical collections, and the 20(th) century data were obtained from the forensic anthropology databank. Data were available for Blacks and Whites of both sexes. Secular change was evaluated by regressing cranial variables on year of birth. Two analyses were conducted, one using the original variables and one using size and shape. Size is defined as the geometric mean of the cranial variables, and shape is the ratio of each variable to size. The results show remarkable changes in the size and shape of the cranial vault. Vault height increases in all groups in both absolute and relative terms. The vault also becomes longer and narrower, but these changes are less pronounced. Face changes are less than the vault changes, but to the extent that they occur, the face becomes narrower and higher. Overall cranial vault size has increased, but shape changes are greater than size changes. The magnitude of secular change in vault height exceeds that for long bones over a comparable time period, but follows a similar course, which suggests that vault height and bone length respond to the same forces. Changes in vault dimensions must occur by early childhood because of the early development of the vault. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 12:327-338, 2000. Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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