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Homo. 2010 Dec;61(6):385-412. doi: 10.1016/j.jchb.2010.09.002. Epub 2010 Oct 25.

Craniofacial morphometric variation and the biological history of the peopling of Sardinia.

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Laboratorio di Archeoantropologia, Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana, Via dei Rossi 26/A, 50018 Scandicci, Firenze, Italy.


The aim of this work is to explore the pattern of craniofacial morphometric variation and the relationships among five prehistoric Sardinian groups dated from Late Neolithic to the Nuragic Period (Middle and Late Bronze Age), in order to formulate hypotheses on the peopling history of Sardinia. Biological relationships with coeval populations of central peninsular Italy were also analysed to detect influences from and towards extra-Sardinian sources. Furthermore, comparison with samples of contemporary populations from Sardinia and from continental Italy provided an indication of the trend leading to the final part of the peopling history. Finally, Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic samples were included in the analyses to compare the prehistoric Sardinians with some of their potential continental ancestors. The analysis is based on multivariate techniques including Mahalanobis D(2) distance, non-parametric multidimensional scaling (MDS) and principal component analysis (PCA). The results showed the tendency to progressive differentiation between Sardinian groups and peninsular Italian groups, with the possible exception of a discontinuity showed by the Bonnànaro (Early Bronze Age) Sardinian sample. Several aspects of the morphological results were found to agree with the current genetic evidence available for the present-day Sardinian population and a Nuragic sample: (1) biological divergence between the Sardinian and peninsular Italian populations; (2) similarity/continuity among Neolithic, Bronze Age and recent Sardinians; (3) biological separation between the Nuragic and Etruscan populations; (4) contribution of a Palaeo-Mesolithic gene pool to the genetic structure of current Sardinians.

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