A comparative study of frontal bone morphology among Pleistocene hominin fossil groups
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Features of the frontal bone that are conventionally used to distinguish among fossil hominin groups were quantitatively examined. Fifty-five fossil crania dating from the early to the late Pleistocene were analyzed. Using a modified pantograph, outlines of the frontal bone were collected along the midsagittal and two parasagittal planes. The profile from nasion to bregma, as well as two profiles above the medial and lateral sections of the orbit, respectively, extending from the orbital margin to the coronal suture were traced. The outlines were measured using Elliptical Fourier Function Analysis (EFFA), which enabled a quantification of aspects of the frontal bone that have historically been described primarily in nonmetric or linear terms. Four measurements were obtained: 1) overall morphology as expressed in the Fourier harmonic amplitudes; 2) maximum projection of the supraorbital torus at three points along the browridge (glabella and the medial and lateral aspects of the torus above the orbit); 3) maximum distance of the frontal squama from the frontal chord, capturing forehead curvature; and 4) nasion-bregma chord length. The results indicate that the midsagittal profile is significantly different among all Pleistocene groups in analyses that include both size and shape, as well as size-adjusted data. Homo erectus is significantly different from the late Pleistocene groups (Neandertals and early modern H. sapiens) in glabellar projection. Anatomically modern humans are significantly different from all other groups in both raw and size-standardized analyses of all three outlines that captured overall morphology, as well as forehead curvature and lateral supraorbital torus prominence, and middle Pleistocene Homo are significantly different in both medial and lateral overall parasagittal form. However, for the majority of analyses there were no significant differences among the Pleistocene archaic groups in supraorbital torus projection, frontal squama curvature, nasion-bregma chord length, or overall frontal bone morphology.
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