Nonmetric Cranial Trait Variation and Ancestry Estimation in Asian and Asian-Derived Groups

J Forensic Sci. 2020 May;65(3):692-706. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.14234. Epub 2019 Nov 6.


Traditionally, precontact Native Americans and Asian groups have been conflated for aspects of the biological profile due to their distantly shared genetic history, although this grouping remains largely unexplored. This study examines craniomorphic variability to ascertain whether Asian groups can be differentiated from each other and from Asian-derived groups using more fine-tuned models. Cranial and mandibular data for 35 nonmetric traits were recorded on precontact Native Americans (n = 150) and modern Japanese (n = 150) and Thai (n = 150) individuals. Chi-square analyses indicate that all groups exhibit statistically significant differences in most traits. Additionally, cross-validated binary logistic regression equations resulted in correct classification rates in the range of 65.0-93.3% and demonstrate that sex does not contribute to statistical models. Therefore, numerous traits provide discriminatory resolution that detects differences between the samples, thus highlighting the potential utility of nonmetric traits in identifying individuals beyond the traditional African, European, and Asian forensic ancestry groupings.

Keywords: Asian and Asian-derived groups; ancestry estimation; biological profile; forensic anthropology; forensic science; nonmetric traits.

MeSH terms

  • American Indian or Alaska Native*
  • Asian People*
  • Female
  • Forensic Anthropology*
  • Humans
  • Japan / ethnology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology*
  • Observer Variation
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*
  • Southwestern United States
  • Thailand / ethnology