AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 65:163-168 (1984) Are the Kow Swamp Hominids “Archaic”? G.E. KENNEDY Department ofAnthropology, Uniuersity of California, Los Angeles, California 90024 KEY WORDS Australia, Femur, Homo erectus ABSTRACT Initial reports of hominids recovered a t Kow Swamp, in the Murray Valley of Victoria indicated that, on the basis of cranial analyses, there was a “survival of Homo erectus features in Australia until as recently as 10,000 years ago (Thorne and Macumber, 1972, p. 316). This claim was later refuted by others, who suggested that artificial cranial deformation may have been responsible for a t least some of the distinctive and “primitive” traits seen in the Kow Swamp individuals. Previous research by this worker and others has indicated that taxonomic traits a t both specific and subspecific levels are present in hominine femora. Therefore, it may be possible to evaluate the “primitiveness” of the Kow Swamp sample on the basis of their femoral anatomy. Morphometric analyses were undertaken, using as controls femora of Romano British, Tasmanian, and other Murray Valley populations. On the basis of bivariate and multivariate analyses it was found that, a t least in this single element of the postcranium, no primitive features were present. The Kow Swamp sample, in fact, shows a very close morphometric relationship with all included Homo sapiens controls and is significantly distinct from Homo erectus. In 1967 human remains were recovered from a site a t Kow Swamp, near Cohuna in the Murray River valley in Victoria. The sample, consisting of about 15 adults complete enough for metric analysis, was subsequently found to date to between 9,000 and 14,000 before the present (BPI (Thorne, 1971a).Initial reports (Thorne, 1971a; Thorne and Macumber, 1972; Thorne, 1975)based on analyses of crania, indicated that some traits characteristic of Middle Pleistocene Homo erectus populations had apparently persisted in the Kow Swamp sample. This was particularly evident in the frontal bone (Thorne and Wilson, 1977) which “preserv(ed) a n almost unmodified eastern erectus form, specifically that of the Javan pithecanthropines” (Thorne and Macumber, 1972). This view was supported by Sartono (1971),who noted “that the general outline and details of the facial structure are strikingly similar to Pithecanthropus VIII.” An additional “primitive” trait was seen in the “uniform thickness” of the cranial bones (Thorne and Macumber, 19721, but this view was later altered (Thorne, 1976) when it was noted that the frontal and zygo- 0 1984 ALAN R. LISS, INC matic were disproportionately thicker than the rest of the skull. However, no statistical support for either statement has yet been offered. It was later suggested, however, that some of the “primitive” traits, particularly in the frontal region, were due not to a retention of archaic features but rather to deliberate cranial deformation (Brothwell, 1975; Brown, 1981) (however, see below). Thus, the claim that the Kow Swamp sample demonstrates retained, primitive hominine characteristics may not be evaluated unequivocally solely on cranial materials. Previous research has indicated that information of specific and subspecific taxonomic significance can be found in the femur. While some workers have identified such traits in femora of nonhuman primates (Stains, 1962; Ciochon and Corruccini, 1975; Szalay et al., 1975; Ford, 1980) others have confirmed the presence of such traits in fossil hominine femora a t both the specific (Weidenreich, 1941; Day, 1971; Kennedy, 1973, 1983a,b) and subReceived December 12, 1983;accepted June 12, 1984 164 G.E. KENNEDY specific levels (Kennedy, 1984). The femora of H. erectus, relative to those of anatomically modern H. sapiens, are characterized in part by thickened cortex and medullary stenosis; low shaft indices, particularly in the upper shaft and midshaft; and a low point of minimum shaft breadth (Weidenreich, 1941; Day, 1971, Kennedy, 1973, 1983a,b, 1984). Certain aspects of this primitive pattern, particularly the increased cortical thickness, have been identified in a n archaic subspecies, H. s. rhodesiensis (Kennedy, 1984).With the documentation of a distinctive morphological pattern in archaic species and sub species of the genus Homo, it then becomes possible to examine whether or not similar primitive features are retained in the reputedly “archaic” Kow Swamp sample. METHODS AND MATERIALS The comparative H. sapiens sample for this study consisted of femora from 100 RomanoBritish individuals (43 females, 57 males), 71 Murray Valley individuals (32 females, 39 males), and 8 Tasmanians (4 females, 4 males). The Romano-British sample, from a site a t Ancaster, is housed a t the British Museum (Natural History). The Murray Valley sample, derived from the Murray Black collections a t the Australian National University, Canberra, and the University of Melbourne, had originally been collected from localities at Lindsay Creek and Barham. These localities are very near one another and initial analyses indicated that there were no significant metric differences between the two samples; thus they were subsequently treated as a single sample. The Tasmanian sample, now housed in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery a t Hobart, consists of skeletons collected in 1908 a t Oyster Cove. Historical records indicate that this group was racially unmixed and had been removed to Oyster Cove from Flinders Island in 1847 (see Macintosh and Barker, 1965; see also Crowther and Abbie, 1963). Questions of both the authenticity and “unmixed” racial status surround virtually all “Tasmanian” material (see particularly Macintosh and Barker, 1965). However, this particular Tasmanian sample appears to be from a relatively well documented context. Sexual determination on the comparative sample was made by this worker on the basis of associated 0s coxae using previously defined criteria (Washburn, 1948; Phenice, 1969). Sexual assessment on the incomplete skele- tal remains of the Kow Swamp sample indicates that of the five individuals complete enough to be included in this study only Kow Swamp (KS) 16 is clearly female. The H. erectus sample consisted of Choukoutien I and IV;OH 28; KNM ER 737, 803, and 1481a; sexual assessment was not attempted on this sample. The Kow Swamp material lacks complete proximal and distal articular areas and therefore the metric analyses were confined to the shaft. External measurements were taken with a sliding caliper in the AP and ML orientations a t the proximal shaft and midshaft levels and a t 70% and 85% of shaft length. The points at which the external measurements were made were marked on the bone with radiopaque lead tape so that measurements could be taken on the xrays at precisely the same points. x-Rays were made in standardized AP and ML orientations using medical radiography equipment and Osray RP1 film made by AgfaGevaert. Exposure time varied according to mineralization or demineralization of the specimens. Cortical measurements were obtained from the x-rays in anterior, posterior, medial, and lateral orientations using a sliding caliper with a Vernier dial correct to 0.1 mm. A fuller discussion of the osteometric techniques used here have been published elsewhere (Kennedy, 1973, 1983b). RESULTS It has previously been demonstrated that a consistent pattern of increased cortical thickness and medullary stenosis represents one of the most significant discriminators between the femora of H. erectus and H. sapiens (Kennedy, 1973, 1983a,b). Moreover, a pattern of increased cortical thickness (reflected in both absolute cortical measurements and in the cortical indices) has been shown to persist, in a somewhat diminished form, in later specimens such as Kabwe (fomerly “Rhodesian”) Man (Kennedy, 1984). Reference to Table 1 will show that the Kow Swamp hominids, rather than having a primitive pattern of thickened cortical bone and medullary stenosis, have instead very thin shaft walls in comparison with the RomanoBritish, Murray Valley, and Tasmanian comparative groups. This thinness of the shaft walls (both absolutely and relatively) is so marked that the mean cortical indices for the Kow Swamp sample fall below even the female control means in all but a single instance. Table 2 shows that the Z-scores, 165 KOW SWAMP HOMINIDS TABLE 1. Cortical indices and minimum breadth index Cortical indices Upper shaft: ML’ Mean S.D. Kow Swamp mean KS 5 KS 8 KS 14 KS 16 KS 17 Murray Valley Males n = 39 Females n = 32 Tasmanians Males n =4 Females n =4 Romano-British Males n = 56 Females n = 43 Homo erectus Mean 40.5 33.8 10.2 Upper shaft: A P Mean S.D. Midshaft: ML Mean S.D. 7.8 39.4 49.6 52.0 47.4 55.2 68.2 47.2 41.7 10.2 43.4 40.6 50.9 .. . 37.5 46.2 41.8 5.2 64.5 51.9* 11.6 51.8* 6.2 54.0 5.3 55.9 7.3 53.7* 4.9 ~~ 55.4 33.8 38.8 41.6 33.2 33.2 Minimum breadth Midshaft: A P index2 Mean S.D. Mean S.D. ~ 2.0 52.8* 54.6* 5.7 9.2 46.9 43.3 9.2 9.3 58.3 54.2 6.3 7.2 54.6* 50.5 5.7 8.9 47.8 43.4 12.8 10.4 47.7 46.3 10.0 9.4 53.3 59.2 9.9 19.5 51.8 57.5 13.8 11.2 45.9 41.4 9.3 9.9 40.5 37.9 7.7 10.4 57.6 55.3 7.8 11.1 58.1* 55.2* 7.6 7.5 54.6 56.1 53.6* 3.3 53.0* 8.1 62.3* 5.0 62.8* 7.3 44.9* 0.6 7.6 7.4 ‘Cortical index: [shaft diameter in that orientation]/[cortical diameters at same level and orientation] x 100. ‘Minimum breadth index: [height of minimum shaft breadth (ML) above the infracondylar planelilshaft length] x 100. *Value significantly different from Kow Swamp mean at P = .05 using t-test. TABLE 2. 2-scores’ Murray Valley Males Females Upper shaft cortical index2 Mediolateral Anteroposterior Midshaft cortical index Mediolateral Anteroposterior Tasmanian Males Females -1.8 -0.5 -2.2 -1.0 -0.4 -0.6 -0.9 -1.3 -0.8 -2.0 -0.9 -0.4 -0.0 -0.6 -0.6 -1.0 ‘Z-scores calculated between Kow Swamp male or female means and comparative Australian group of same sex. ‘See Table 1for definition of indices. comparing the various cortical indices by sex, are in all cases negative. Moreover, the Kow Swamp sample is significantly different (using a t-test, see Table 1)from the Homo erectus sample in all calculated cortical indices at the P = < .05 level. Unfortunately proximal and distal articular areas are not well enough preserved on the Kow Swamp sample for comparative study. Figure 1shows the pattern of external shaft indices for Kow Swamp and the comparative groups. The males and females have been pooled here, since there is very little sexual dimorphism in these variables (see Table 1). It is clear from Figure 1 that the Kow Swamp sample follows very closely the profile pattern of the other Homo sapiens groups, while the H. erectus sample displays a unique profile. Another feature which strongly separates the archaic and modern species of the genus Homo is the position of the shaft “waist” reflected in the Minimum Breadth Index (Table 1). The H. erectus sample shows a very low mean value for this index (44.9), indicating that the position of the minimum shaft breadth falls very low on the shaft; the mean index for the Kow Swamp sample (64.5) is in fact above the Minimum Breadth Indices of the comparative Homo sapiens samples (means: 51.8-56.1). 166 G.E. KENNEDY Figure 1 115 110 105 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 PLATYMERIC INDEX PlLASTRlC INDEX SUB-PILASTRIC INDEX POPLITEAL INDEX Murray Valley Tasmanians Kow Swamp . -. H. erectus RomanoBritish - - - - - Fig. 1. Shaft index profiles for the fossil and comparative groups considered here. Table 3 shows the Mahalanobis’s D’-values for the included groups. It is doubtful if any set of palaeoanthropological data satisfiesthe assumptions inherent in the multivariate distance statistics. However, D2, since it decorrelates variables and is relatively “insensitive” to differences in sample size (Rightmire, 1969),has proven useful in such studies. The probability is < .005 that any of the Kow Swamp individuals would be found in the H. erectus sample. The D2-valuesare slightly less between KS 5, 8, and 14 and the Tasmanian male centroid than between the Kow Swamp individuals and any other comparative group. The same is true for the Kow Swamp female (KS 16),which demonstrates less “distance” to the Tasmanian female centroid than to the other comparative femaie centroids. The D2values of KS 5,8, and 14from the Kow Swamp centroid are very small and would suggest considerable homogeneity among these indi- viduals. KS 17 shows a larger distance to the Kow Swamp centroid, but this distance is still less than to the centroids of most of the comparative groups. As a n individual, Kow Swamp 17 continues to show greater distance values to the comparative group centroids than the other Kow Swamp individuals. DISCUSSION This analysis of one element of the postcranium does not confrm the hypothesis that the Kow Swamp sample has close morphological affinities with either archaic Homo sap iens or with primitive H. erectus populations. The Kow Swamp sample does not demonstrate the relatively or absolutely thickened cortex nor the distinct shaft shape of known archaic members of the genus Homo, a t either the specific or the subspecific level. On the contrary, on the basis of evidence presented here, the Kow Swamp sample very 167 KOW SWAMP HOMINIDS TABLE 3. Mahalanobis’s D 2ualuesl Kow Swamp (n = 5) Tasmanian (n = 4) males females (n = 4) Murray Valley males (n = 39) females (n = 32) Romano-British males (n = 57) females (n = 43) Homo erectus (n = 4 ) KS 5 KS 8 KS 14 3.7 3.6 2.9 9.2 7.4 6.5 25.9 8.7 21.3 7.7 18.5 9.0 5.1 18.5 29.2 8.5 20.9 12.0 21.9 4.7 11.5 7.6 5.6 17.9 35.3 8.0 4.0 8.8 36.4 16.8 13.0 48.7 15.0 5.2 46.3 15.4 24.3 52.1 12.3 40.0 KS 16’ KS 17 ‘Multivariate analyses was restricted to those variables that occurred on all fossil specimens; thus only 12 variables were included here. Those variables included external and cortical measurements at the oroximal.. mid.. and 70%shaft ooints. Indices were not included in the multivariate analyses. ‘Fernaie. closely resembles other more recent hominids from Australia. As noted above, some workers have felt that the “archaic” features of the Kow Swamp crania were due, in part a t least, to deliberate cranial deformation (Brothwell, 1975; Brown, 1981). This explanation of the distinctive traits in the Kow Swamp sample was later challenged (Thorne, 1976;Larnach, 1978) with the observation that the posterior portions of the crania were not affected as they would have been with deliberate deformation. However, concomitant deformation of the type sought by Thorne and Larnach would only be present if a n appliance using anteroposterior compressive force had been used to effect the deformation (see Dingwall, 1931). There are a number of ethnographic observations made elsewhere in Australia (northern Victoria: Kenyon, 1928; Cape York: Brierly, 1848-1850; Macgillivray, 1852) and in other areas of the Pacific (Torres Strait: Miklouho-Maclay, 1880; Haddon, 1912 [see Brown, 19811; Hawaiian Islands: Pukui, 1974) that demonstrate the presence of artificial cranial deformation relying partly or solely on the compression and/or massaging of the frontal by the mother’s hands; thus there would be no concomitant effect on the parietal and occipital squama. This evidence, along with the fully modern morphology of the femur, would seem to argue against retained “primitive” traits in the Kow Swamp sample. The close similarity of the Kow Swamp sample with the small Tasmanian sample is of some interest. Bass Strait was flooded at the end of the last stadial, c. 11,000years ago (Macintosh and Barker, 19651, thus creating the island of Tasmania. Whether or not the isolation of the hominids on the island has been complete since that time has been disputed. However, Macintosh (1949) has stated that a crossing of the strait from Australia to Tasmania would have been “practically impossible.” Thus it may not be likely that much new genetic material has entered the human populations in Tasmania over the last 11,000 years. Most workers agree that the native Tasmanians (noting the caveats discussed above concerning Tasmanian samples), while showing some characteristic features, nevertheless had close racial affinities with south Australian populations. This view has been neatly summarized by Thorne: “The Tasmanian aborigines are local variants of the southern Australian populations” (1971b, p. 319). The morphometric similarity found in this study, and largely cgdirmed on cranial materials, would thus indicate very conservative evolutionary processes in the southern region of Australia over a considerable time period. 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