Anterior femoral curvature is a consistent characteristic of Pleistocene and recent humans, although variation exists in the degree of curvature among individuals and across populations. In particular, one group, the Neandertals, has been characterized for a century as having marked femoral curvature. To evaluate the degree of anterior femoral curvature in both Neandertals and other Late Pleistocene humans, their curvature subtenses and proximodistal positions were evaluated in the context of recent human variation. Recent human comparisons show little relationship between subtense (absolute curvature) and femoral length, suggesting that an index that incorporates subtense relative to the length of the femur is inappropriate for between-group assessments. Neandertals were statistically indistinguishable from Middle or earlier Upper Paleolithic modern humans in the degree of absolute curvature, all of whom had greater curvature on average than all later humans. Additionally, Neandertals and Qafzeh-Skhul early modern humans had a more distal point of maximum curvature than any other group. Curvature was not strongly correlated with functional considerations including body mass estimates, surrogate variables for body size, proximal femoral articular orientation, or knee anteroposterior dimensions. The functional role of femoral anterior curvature is unknown; however, the general decrease in curvature subtense closely parallels the between-group changes in inferred levels of mobility from femoral diaphyseal robusticity and shape, suggesting that femoral curvature may reflect mobility levels and patterns among Late Pleistocene and recent humans.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.