Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 6:3-20 (2012)

Origins of the Neolithic people of Abu Hureyra, northern Syria. An attempt to address an archaeological question through a study of the mandibles

Theya Molleson* (1), Antonio Rosas (2)

(1) Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum,
London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
email: (corresponding author)
(2) Departamento de Paleobiología,
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC,
C/ José Gutierrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain

Abstract: A high degree of diversity noted in the Neolithic mandibles from Abu Hureyra provided the opportunity to address the problem of the meaning and origin of variability in the population. Mandible morphology is approached bearing in mind cranio-facial interactions. Two morphological patterns were identified in the Abu Hureyra mandible sample. The ABU morph represents the majority, while the ABO morph corresponds to a small group with a distinctive shape. In this preliminary study, variability of the mandibles was examined through bivariate analyses of the Abu Hureyra material and of five comparative samples. The ABU pattern has affinities with other populations of the Near East including Çatal Hüyük and Lachish as indicated by similarities of both ramus morphology and corpus robusticity, whilst the ABO pattern shows biologically significant resemblances to East African (Elmenteita) and North African Mesolithic (Afalou) as well as to Neolithic material from the Near East (Jericho). These similarities suggest that there were migrations to the Near East from north and east Africa at the end of the Pleistocene.

Key words: mandible morphology; Neolithic; Near East; Africa

Received 9 August 2011; accepted 27 September 2012; published online 28 November 2012.

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