Regional variation in the postcranial robusticity of late upper paleolithic humans

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Early modern humans from the European Upper Paleolithic (UP) demonstrate trends in postcranial biomechanical features that coincide with the last glacial maximum (LGM). These features have been interpreted as evidence that ecological changes of the LGM played a critical role in cultural and biological adaptation in European UP populations. In areas outside of Europe, similar environmental changes occurred with the LGM. This analysis introduces postcranial material from the Late Upper Paleolithic (LUP) of North Africa and Southeast Asia and tests two related hypotheses: 1) LUP samples across the Old World had similar patterns of postcranial robusticity and 2) relative to an available Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) sample, regional LUP samples demonstrate similar trends in robusticity that may be attributable to climatic effects of the LGM. Cross-sectional geometric data of the humeri and femora were obtained for 26 EUP and 100 LUP humans from Europe, Africa, and Asia. Despite regional differences, LUP samples are similar relative to the EUP sample. In the humerus, bilateral asymmetry decreases in all LUP samples relative to the EUP sample. In the femur, LUP samples demonstrate increasingly circular femoral mid-shaft sections, reflecting reduced anteroposterior bending strength relative to the EUP sample. These patterns suggest changes in subsistence behavior and mobility after the LGM across the Old World that are most consistent with reduced mobility and broad-spectrum resource exploitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-668
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Biomechanics
  • Cross-sectional geometry
  • Late Pleistocene
  • North Africa
  • Southeast Asia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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