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Are the Kow Swamp hominids УarchaicФ.

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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.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to thank Dr. Alan Thorne, who
allowed me to study materials in his care,
and Professor Joseph Birdsell, whose consistent encouragement made this research
possible.
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