Divided zygoma in Holocene human populations from Northern China.
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OBJECTIVES: Divided zygoma (DZ) occurs in contemporaneous human populations, with the highest incidences in people from East Asia and Southern Africa. The present study examines the prevalence and variation of this condition in the Holocene populations of Northern China for the first time. METHODS: In this study, 1145 skulls from various human populations living in Northern China from the Neolithic Age to recent dynasties (5000-300years BP) were examined. Specifically, cranial measurements and a CT scan were conducted to quantify craniofacial morphology. RESULTS: Fifteen skulls were identified with DZ, revealing an overall prevalence of 1.3% in the collection, while it was determined to be higher in North Asian and Northeast Asian regional groups. In skulls with unilateral DZ, the superior division of the zygoma was generally slender, while the inferior division of the zygoma was more robust. In skulls with bilateral DZ, the maxillae were generally more laterally extended. Moreover, unilateral DZ skulls displayed differences in cortical bone thickness between two sides of the facial skeleton. DISCUSSION: In context, the distribution pattern within these data points toward a greater prevalence of the DZ phenotype in North and Northeast Asian regional groups, suggesting a hypothesis that the DZ trait is more frequent in populations characterized by flat and broad faces. Accordingly, further studies into the DZ condition will deepen our understanding of developments in plasticity, variation, and recent evolution of the human cranium.