Mississippians in Motion? A Population Genetic Analysis of Interregional Gene Flow in West-Central Illinois

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2001 Jan;114(1):61-73. doi: 10.1002/1096-8644(200101)114:1<61::AID-AJPA1006>3.0.CO;2-6.


Population genetic and biological distance studies of Late Woodland and Mississippian populations from west-central Illinois have provided insight into a number of prehistoric demographic processes at the regional level. However, a formal analysis of diachronic interregional gene flow has not been attempted within a population genetics framework. In this study, cranial measurements of 489 individuals from 13 skeletal samples across the central and lower Illinois valleys are analyzed to address two central issues. First, the potential impact of Cahokia's decline and associated demographic events on the population structure of west-central Illinois Mississippians is examined. Second, the Mississippian and Late Woodland interregional migration patterns are compared to determine if geographic and/or cultural boundaries affected local population structure. Following Relethford and Blangero ([1990] Hum Biol 62:5-25), R matrix methods are utilized to calculate observed and expected phenotypic variances, minimum genetic distances, and F(ST) values in order to detect patterns of differential external gene flow over time. The results indicate that Late Woodland peoples had a larger sphere of biological interaction than Mississippians. In the Mississippian period, culturally imposed barriers paralleled geographic boundaries between regions such that the geographic distribution of biological variation closely adheres to a classic isolation-by-distance model. Further, intraregional population movement was a more significant contributor to Mississippian population structure than interregional gene flow, even during periods of sociopolitical strife. Small-scale intraregional shuffling is consistent with other recent studies of prehistoric Mississippian biocultural and geographic landscapes in the southeast United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Anthropometry
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged