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Dental morphology and the population history of the Pacific rim and basin Commentary on Hirofumi Matsumura and Mark J. Hudson

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Notes and Comments
Dental Morphology and the Population
History of the Pacific Rim and Basin:
Commentary on Hirofumi Matsumura and
Mark J. Hudson
Christy G. Turner II*
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona
State University Tempe, Arizona
Asian-Pacific human origins; dental
morphology; sundadonty; sinodonty
Matsumura and Hudson (2005) critique the dental morphological inferences and hypotheses that I developed for
the late Pleistocene and Holocene population history of
Southeast Asia (Turner, 1983, 1986a,b, 1987, 1990a,b,
1992a,b, 1995, and elsewhere). They propose abandoning
my local-evolution hypothesis called ‘‘sundadonty and
sinodonty,’’ and returning to an earlier view of ‘‘southern
Mongoloid’’ origins, as having been caused by hybridization between Southeast Asian resident Australmelanesians and Neolithic Mongoloid migrant farmers from
China (Callenfels, 1936; Mijsberg, 1940; Barth, 1952; von
Koenigswald, 1952; Bellwood, 1985). They also propose
changing the meaning of ‘‘sundadonty’’ without any corresponding explanation for the origin of sinodonty.
I interpreted East Asian dental variation as indicating
local evolution of the sundadont dental pattern in Southeast Asia. People possessing this pattern later spread into
Northeast Asia. There, most likely in northern China,
Mongolia, and southern Siberia, sundadonty evolved into
sinodonty, possibly around 30,000 years ago (Turner et al.,
2000), and certainly before 13,000 years ago, when High
Arctic Paleo-Siberian sinodonts had crossed Beringia into
the New World (Haynes, 2002; Fiedel, 2004). Later, in our
era, Southeast Asian sundadonts colonized Polynesia and
Micronesia. This East Asian dental evolution hypothesis
grew out of my dental observations for the entire Pacific
Basin and Rim. Scott and Turner (1997) synthesized and
classified much of this information plus other dental morphological variation into five major worldwide dental
groups: sahul-Pacific, sunda-Pacific, Sino-American, subSaharan Africa, and Western Eurasia. These are each
substantially different from one another, with sunda-Pacific (Southeast Asia, Polynesia, Micronesia, and JomonAinu) being the most generalized or least divergent of the
Local dental evolution was proposed as a standardized
diachronic, multiregional, epigenetically based alternative to the hodgepodge of inadequate, out-of-date, and
sometimes incorrectly interpreted osteological and archaeological evidence used in support of the Neolithic migration
scenario that originated in the era when migrationism was
the major explanatory mechanism for modern human biological variation and culture change (Adams et al., 1978).
That evidence was reviewed in Turner (1987), and elaborated upon by Bulbeck (1996, 1999, 2000, and elsewhere)
and Rayner and Bulbeck (2001).
C 2006
My definition of sundadonty was based on a set of crown
and root traits considerably different from those used by
Matsumura and Hudson (2005), who also changed the definitions of incisor shoveling, double-shoveling, and hypocone, and left out major traits such as three-rooted lower
first molars, four-cusped lower second molars, the pegreduced-congenital absence complex of the upper third
molars, and others. My sundadonty was an empirically
derived, and widely reported, specific set of rigorously
standardized characters (Turner et al., 1991). These were
found in both prehistoric and modern Southeast Asian
dentitions, contrary to the claim by Matsumura and Hudson (2005) that their ‘‘sundadonty’’ does not occur in prehistoric Southeast Asians. My frequencies of sundadont
traits are not the same in Australians and Melanesians.
Changing the definition of sundadonty is unwarranted.
Let me elaborate on this concern.
To change the meaning and features of sundadonty as
empirically determined for the morphological characteristics of sunda-Pacific teeth, resulting in the inclusion of
Australians and Melanesians, has no justification (see
interregional trait-frequency differences in Scott and
Turner, 1997). I coined the term ‘‘sundadonty’’ on the basis
of a widespread dental pattern that I found time and
again throughout modern and early archaeological mainland and island Southeast Asia, and later archaeological
Polynesia, Micronesia, Jomon Japan, and modern Hokkaido Ainu. ‘‘Sinodonty’’ was the term I coined for the significantly different dental pattern that characterized my
more northerly East Asian dental samples from northern
China, post-Jomon Japan, Mongolia, eastern Siberia, and
all of the Americas. Several dental traits set sundadonty
and sinodonty apart, but eight were most significant
(Turner, 1983, 1987, 1990a). In nearly every analysis my
associates and I made of Oceanic dentitions from Easter,
Guam, Hawaii, and several other Polynesian and Micronesian islands, the teeth fit the sundadont dental pattern,
and differed considerably from all of several archaeological and recent Melanesian and Australian dental samples.
This fundamental finding is consistent with the generally
accepted two-wave migration hypothesis (non-Austronesian first, and Austronesian second) for the colonization of
Oceania (Green, 1994). Pietrusewsky (1990, 1996, 2005,
and elsewhere) repeatedly found the same fundamental
duality of Oceania, based on his many years of Pacific and
East Asian prehistoric and historic craniological research.
His studies regularly showed Southeast Asian crania to
*Correspondence to: Christy G. Turner II, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
85287-2402. E-mail:
Received 13 June 2005; accepted 9 August 2005.
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20380
Published online 19 January 2006 in Wiley InterScience
cluster with those from Polynesia and Micronesia, and
almost never with crania from Australia or Melanesia.
The same can be said of the Asian-Oceanic dental studies
of Hanihara (1993). The genetic literature exhibits the
same general relationships (Cavalli-Sforza et al., 1994,
p. 443–367).
Nevertheless, the similarity between sundadonty and
the Australian and Melanesian (A-M) dental pattern was
sufficiently similar to suggest that the A-M pattern could
have been like that which existed in Southeast Asia before
sundadonty evolved its characteristics. I called that hypothetical pattern ‘‘proto-sundadonty,’’ and suggested that it
could have been similar to my pooled average Australian
assemblage on the grounds that averaging would adjust
for the internal Australian dental divergence produced by
drift, founder effect, and population structure. I proposed
the term ‘‘proto-sundadonty’’ at a University of Tokyo conference on the evolution and dispersal of modern humans
in Asia (Turner, 1992b, p. 429), on the grounds that the
ancestors of the Australians had to have originated in
Southeast Asia, but long before any of my Southeast Asian
dental samples were living people, because Australia was
colonized by at least 50,000 years ago. Hanihara (1992)
has since used the term ‘‘proto-sundadonty’’ in much the
same way, i.e., to suggest an evolutionary grade between
that of Australians and Southeast Asians. These facts and
inferences help bracket the emergence of sundadonty after 50,000 years ago, but before roughly 10,000 BP, the
probable age of my oldest mainland Southeast Asian dental samples. Offshore, the few Minatogawa teeth from
Okinawa, dated at 22,000 BP, despite their heavy wear,
certainly look as if they could be classified as sundadonts
(they cluster with Jomon teeth; Turner 1987, p. 309), as do
a few other highly fragmentary teeth and jaws from the
20,000þ BP Tabon Cave (66-V-121 has a three-rooted
lower first molar, which is very rare in Australmelanesians) and 40,000 BP Niah Cave (EM805 upper M2 has a
strongly reduced hypocone, and possibly a single-rooted
upper P1: both Asian, and not Australmelanesian, tendencies). In other words, a very broad view of eastern Asia
from the Arctic Circle to the tip of the Malay Peninsula,
and the Pacific Basin from Taiwan to Easter, shows without any question that not only did sundadonty exist long
before Neolithic Mongoloid farmers spread into Southeast
Asia, but sundadonty is so widespread in the Pacific and
Southeast Asia that it is difficult to imagine how even
large numbers of Chinese farmers could have caused so
much genetic mixing. What’s more, no one has ever
claimed that the pre-Yayoi Jomonese of Japan were influenced by Chinese farmers, yet they have the sundadont
pattern. Hawkey (1998) found that 22,000-year-old teeth
from Sri-Lanka correspond well with the sundadont pattern, providing a sundadont-like sample far, far away in
time and space from any Neolithic Chinese farmers. My
guess is that sundadonty is around 25,000–40,000 years
old, and its geogenetic hub is in Australasia (Southeast
Asia and eastern South Asia). This I suggest on the
grounds that, in contrast, sinodonty has to be younger
than sundadonty, and had to have evolved out of sundadonty, because there is no other dental pattern in the
world as much like sinodonty as sundadonty. In short, the
most parsimonious explanation for sundadonty, based on
direct and indirect evidence, indicates that it existed
before the Neolithic, and I maintain that overwhelming
amounts of evidence and strong inferences indicate that it
is the result of local evolution out of proto-sundadonty for
the reasons just stated, and not the result of admixture
between unmigrated Australmelanesians and Northeast
Asian peoples. While the inference made by Matsumura
and Hudson (2005) is not unreasonable, i.e., very early
Southeast Asian teeth should show some similarity with
those of Australmelanesians, their inference was anticipated more than a decade ago by the hypothesis of protosundadonty, which they do not acknowledge.
Sundadonty and sinodonty are relative concepts. The
former is more simplified and retains more of the inferred
ancestral proto-sundadont condition as reconstructed on
the basis of Australian dental morphology and earlier
teeth from Africa and Europe, i.e., early anatomically
modern humans. For example, sundadonty has a higher
frequency of four-cusped lower second molars (simplification), and a lower frequency of three-rooted lower first
molars (less specialized). Sinodonty is more complex and
specialized; again, 3-rooted lower first molar has a very
high frequency. However, with occlusal wear, some of the
crown morphological expression of sinodonty can wear off,
leaving individuals who appear to be sundadonts. I have
found this ‘‘shift’’ repeatedly in Native Americans. All
Native Americans are sinodonts, but within any given
dental sample, the crowns of older individuals with varying amounts of wear can take on a sundadont appearance,
although the roots do not. For example, incisor shoveling
can shift from marked to moderate with wear. The canine
distal accessory ridge can shift from marked to absent
with wear. Lower molar cusp 6 can wear off completely.
Aware of this source of observational error, we established
strict limits on the amount of occlusal wear that is allowed
for trait scoring in the Arizona State University Dental
Anthropology System (Turner et al., 1991).
Archaeologically derived teeth generally show more
dental wear than teeth of recent or living people, which is
a simple function of tooth use and food-processing technology. The fact that Matsumura and Hudson (2005) found
prehistoric Southeast Asian teeth to be more like the relatively simple teeth of Australians and Melanesians is in
part attributable to the fact that they did not take wear
into account; at least they say nothing about wear being
considered. To illustrate the problem, Matsumura and
Hudson (2005) scored lower molar cusp 6 the same way
that Scott and Turner (1997) did, yet their frequency of
cusp 6, in Australmelanesians, for example, is 28–38%,
whereas we reported 14–72%. Where attrition is less of a
problem, e.g., in the interruption groves of the upper lateral incisors, located near the crown-root junction, our
Australmelanesian findings are more alike: Matsumura
and Hudson (2005), 13–24%; Scott and Turner (1997), 8–
28%. One of their prehistoric Southeast Asian samples
(Non Nok Tha) clusters with their New Britain sample.
This is much more likely due to occlusal wear or choice of
traits than to phylogeny, because neither Pietresewsky
(1996) nor I found Non Nok Tha crania or teeth to cluster
closely with New Britain or any other Melanesian or
Australian sample.
Figure 1 (cladogram) and Figure 2 (multidimensional
scaling) in Matsumura and Hudson (2005) placed Sakhalin Ainu, Hokkaido Ainu, and Jomon Japanese in the
group titled ‘‘Australians, Melanesians, and prehistoric
Southeast Asians.’’ Of course, the Japanese are neither
Australian, Melanesian, nor prehistoric Southeast Asian,
so a meaningful part of their clustering and classification
is geogenetically incorrect (3/13 groups; 23.1%). The joining of prehistoric Southeast Asians with Jomonese and
Ainu is to be expected, since they all possess sundadont
morphology and share similar archaeological elements
including shell mounds, dental transfigurement, and
early pottery. The problem is with the Australians and
Melanesians, who are misclassified. Only by ignoring the
fact that the three Ainu-Jomon samples link with the prehistoric Southeast Asians can Matsumura and Hudson
(2005) claim that prehistoric Southeast Asians are more
like Australians and Melanesians, and hence that modern
Southeast Asians are a product of mixing with Neolithic
farmers from the north.
One group in island Southeast Asia that the hypothetical Chinese farmers could not possibly have had much
effect on are the Batak, a so-called ‘‘Negrito’’ hunting-andgathering forest people of the Philippines often said to
resemble Australmelanesians, although smaller in stature. Using the multivariate mean measure of divergence
statistic (MMD) shows that a sample of Batak teeth is
most similar to Southeast Asians and least similar to
Australmelanesians and Africans: Batak/Prehistoric
Taiwan, MMD ¼ 0.03; Philippines, MMD ¼ 0.06; Early
Malay Archipelago, MMD ¼ 0.07; Borneo, MMD ¼ 0.08;
Ban Chiang, MMD ¼ 0.08; Sri Lanka, MMD ¼ 0.09; Central Thailand, MMD ¼ 0.10; early mainland Southeast
Asia, MMD ¼ 0.11; Australia-Tasmania, MMD ¼ 0.19;
Melanesia, MMD ¼ 0.27; Nubia, MMD ¼ 0.31; West
Africa, MMD ¼ 0.38 (Turner and Eder, 2005). The Batak
provide no support for the Neolithic migration model to
explain the origin of ‘‘southern Mongoloids.’’
The first person whom I found to challenge the migrating farmer hypothesis did so by diachronic cranial comparisons. Sangvichien (1983) examined some of the same
crania that Matsumura and Hudson (2005) later reported
on, and compared them with recent Thai. Sangvichien
(1983) found very little difference, and concluded that the
Thai are an indigenous Southeast Asian population, and
not migrants from the north as are modern Chinese in
Ignoring the very small size of the prehistoric Southeast
Asian sample of Matsumura and Hudson (2005) (e.g., only
59 mesiodistal measurements for the upper teeth, with a
range of 1–8 mesiodistal measurements for any given
tooth), an examination of the dental measurements they
provided, especially their Figure 3, reveals that teeth are
generally ‘‘smaller’’ in Northeast Asia than in Southeast
Asia. This situation brings to mind the study by Perzigian
(1984), whose cluster analysis demonstrated on a worldwide basis that small-toothed people group together regardless of location, language, or genetic affinity. The
same sort of clustering occurred for large-toothed folk.
Perzigian (1984) thought that this classification better
reflected dentally related technology than genetic affinity.
On the other hand, his cluster analysis of dental shape
produced groupings that would be expected on the basis of
known taxonomic relationships. Similarly, Brace et al.
(1990, p. 339) linked the relatively small teeth of Jomonese, Chinese, Neolithic Thai, and others to food-processing
technology. The crown measurements that Matsumura
and Hudson (2005) used to support the idea of a Neolithic
farming migration are susceptible to alternative interpretations like that of Perzigian (1984). Moreover, in their
effort to show that recent Southeast Asians are hybrids of
Northeast Asians and unmigrated Australmelanesians, it
should be noted that they have two prehistoric Southeast
Asian groups whose tooth ‘‘size’’ links them with recent
Southeast Asians: Early Holocene Laotians and Ban Kao.
In conclusion, it is my view that Matsumura and Hudson (2005) have not overthrown the sundadont (and sinodont) model for the late Pleistocene and Holocene population history of Southeast Asia, let alone its contribution to
the understanding of all East Asian, Oceanic, and Native
American dental variation. They have, in fact, strengthened it with useful additional data.
I thank David Bulbeck in Canberra, Australia, for taking considerable time to ‘‘discuss’’ this commentary with
me through the remarkable medium of e-mail. Any errors
herein are mine.
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‘‘Sundadonty’’ and the Population History
of Southeast Asia: A Reply to Turner
pooled close regional and chronological samples, and made
further larger-scale comparisons using data compiled from
major East/Southeast Asian and Pacific groups. Mandibular molars were better preserved in a number of samples,
and we could observe a sufficient number of examples even
in the case of traits, such as the sixth cusp, that are
removed when dental attrition is severe.
We agree with Turner that technology (especially foodprocessing technology) probably has an important effect
on tooth size. However, contrary to Turner’s comments,
our Figure 3 does not simply show that ‘‘teeth are generally ‘smaller’ in Northeast Asia than in Southeast Asia:’’
the actual picture is more complex. Certainly, the results
in Figure 3 are difficult to explain by culture alone. In his
work, Turner has made laudable attempts to discuss the
possible role of environmental and cultural practices on
Mark J. Hudson1* and Hirofumi Matsumura2
Institute of History and Anthropology, University of
Tsukuba, Tsukuba Science City, Ibaraki, Japan
Department of Anatomy, Sapporo Medical University,
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
We thank Professor Turner for his interest in our
research and his comments on our recent paper (Matsumura and Hudson, 2005). In his commentary, Turner
raises a number of important issues, although several of
his points go beyond the scope of our original article. In
this reply, we will first discuss the more specific methodological concerns raised by Turner, before moving on to a
broader consideration of sundadonty and the population
history of Southeast Asia.
As noted by Turner, it is crucial to give sufficient attention to dental wear when observing nonmetric dental
traits and, indeed, when measuring teeth for metric analyses. This is a problem shared by all dental anthropologists,
and every care was taken to select specimens and trait
items least affected by wear. Due to difficulties in identifying the degree of shovel shape in the case of heavily worn
incisors, a reduced sample size was unavoidable. In order
to reduce the problem of lack of sufficient sample size, we
*Correspondence to: Mark J. Hudson, Institute of History and Anthropology, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba Science City, Ibaraki
305-8571, Japan. E-mail:
Received 9 September 2005; accepted 12 October 2005.
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20381
Published online 27 January 2006 in Wiley InterScience
selection for tooth size and shape (e.g., Turner, 1987, p.
310–316). Our understanding is that the thrust of Turner’s research has been the conclusion that selection plays
at best only a minor role in dental nonmetric traits. We
agree that metric analyses of the early Holocene Laos and
Ban Kao samples place them with recent Southeast
Asians, but as noted in our article, the typical Neolithic
material culture at Ban Kao suggests that the site may
have been produced by a farming population, even though
remains of cultivated plants were not found. As also discussed in our article, the ‘‘early Holocene Laos’’ sample
is probably a Mesolithic population with some later Neolithic skulls mixed in.
Although the battery of dental traits and classification
methods in our study are not all identical with the plaques
provided by Turner et al. (1991), the results of our cluster
analysis in Figure 5 parallel the sundadonty and sinodonty classifications of Turner (1990). This is true even
when Native Americans are included with similar Asian
samples (Matsumura, 1995). The sundadont/sinodont
model has proven to be an influential classificatory framework for the dental anthropology of East and Southeast
Asia, and our article did not explicitly propose abandoning
that framework as a whole. However, for modern human
populations, we doubt whether the people of East and
Southeast Asia can be sharply separated into two dental
trait groups with the assumption of only minimal admixture. Therefore, in our article, we attempted to determine
the existence of populations with characteristics intermediate between the sundadont and sinodont groups, using
multidimensional scaling in addition to cluster analysis,
since it is typically hard to exhibit such intermediate populations using only the latter type of analysis.
The main difference between Turner’s work and our
conclusions is in the interpretation of the process of the
formation of the dental trait complex of modern Southeast
Asians, whether through local evolution or through
hybridization with East Asian immigrants. Our metric
and nonmetric dental analyses concluded that the postNeolithic populations of Southeast Asia were formed
through hybridization between pre-Neolithic ‘‘AusraloMelanesian’’ groups and immigrant farmers from East
Asia. We argued that these results were not consistent
with the local evolution hypothesis proposed by Turner
(1990). Although Hanihara (1992) also proposed a similar
local-evolution model, a recent ondotometric study by
Hanihara and Ishida (2005, p. 292) found results similar
to our own: ‘‘The present findings . . . do not support the division of East Asian populations into sinodonts and sundadonts proposed [by Turner] from analyses of nonmetric
dental traits. . . The results of this study indicate that
Chinese and Japanese populations are more like Southeast Asian populations, while the prehistoric Jomon show
affinities with Australian and Papuan populations.’’
As noted in our article, Turner’s work gives greater historical agency to a traditionally marginalized region
(Southeast Asia); however, we do not assume that an immigration model in any way detracts from such agency. In
our opinion, Turner’s present comments display an overly
critical view of the concept of migration, a view that does
not match recent trends in anthropological archaeology.
While in the early 20th century the Neolithic migration
model for Southeast Asia may indeed have been based on
a ‘‘hodgepodge of inadequate, out-of-date, and sometimes
incorrectly interpreted osteological and archaeological evidence,’’ that is not the case today. While problems with the
context of skeletal remains from early excavations continue (and are discussed in our article with respect to our
samples), at present the mainstream opinion must surely
be that actual population movement was associated with
the expansion of agriculture from China into Southeast
Asia. The evidence for this population movement was succinctly summarized by Bellwood (2005). One does not need
to agree with all of Bellwood’s arguments to accept that
the Neolithic migration model for Southeast Asia needs
once again to be given serious consideration.
The so-called ‘‘two-layer’’ hypothesis for Southeast Asia
has clear similarities with the ‘‘dual structure’’ model proposed for the population history of the Japanese Islands
by Hanihara (1991). The translation by Hanihara (1991)
of ‘‘dual structure’’ is somewhat confusing, and the term
‘‘two-layer’’ is, in fact, closer to the original Japanese niju
kozo. Both of these hypotheses model the expansion of
East Asian (‘‘Mongoloid’’) agricultural populations into
the peripheral regions of East Asia and their interactions
with existing populations. Turner (1987, 1992) accepts
that his data support immigration into the Japanese
Islands during the Jomon-Yayoi transition, but he seems
reluctant to accept a similar agricultural immigration into
Southeast Asia.
Turner writes, ‘‘One group in island Southeast Asia that
the hypothetical Chinese farmers could not possibly have
had much effect on are the Batak, a so-called ‘Negrito’
hunting and gathering forest people of the Philippines.’’
Apart from the fact that the term ‘‘Chinese’’ is wholly
inappropriate here (Bellwood, 1995), it cannot be said that
the Batak were not influenced by neighboring agricultural
populations. To begin with, the Batak speak an Austronesian language, something which almost certainly reflects
language shift, probably at an early stage of the agricultural colonization of the Philippines (Reid, 1987). Genetic
studies of the Batak and other Philippine ‘‘Negritos’’
showed links with East Asians (Omoto, 1981, 1984, 1985).
The position of the Batak in this respect may be rather
similar to that of the Ainu. While mitochondrial DNA
analyses by Horai et al. (1989, 1991) suggested that the
Jomon people and their descendants, the Ainu, originated
in Southeast Asia, other genetic comparisons found a
strong Northeast Asian influence on the Ainu (Omoto,
1995; Omoto and Saitou, 1997; Oota et al., 1999). In terms
of dental nonmetrics, Turner himself notes that the Ainu
show significant admixture. Although Jomon teeth are
classified as sundadont, ‘‘Living Ainu teeth are rather like
those of Japanese [i.e., sinodont], although the sundadont
pattern can still be recognized’’ (Turner, 1987, p. 306).
Because of this admixture, the Ainu were excluded from
Turner (1987). Later, he claimed that ‘‘Ainu without
Japanese admixture are also sundadonts’’ (Turner, 1992,
p. 428), but no Ainu samples were analyzed in that paper,
and as all the main Ainu skeletal collections were gathered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is
unlikely that they can be classified as ‘‘unadmixed.’’ Precise figures are difficult, but Omoto (1973) estimated an
admixture rate of about 40% for Ainu high-school students
in the Hidaka district of Hokkaido, based on data from
family registrations and interviews.
Interestingly, this evidence for genetic and dental
admixture runs parallel with quite clear cranial metric
and nonmetric differences between the Ainu and the postYayoi Japanese (Dodo and Ishida, 1990; Hanihara, 1991).
This raises the possibility that both the Ainu and the
Batak display genetic and dental evidence for admixture,
while retaining an apparently less admixed craniofacial
morphology. Although we have not yet seen the article by
Turner and Eder (2006), in our opinion, these influences
on the Batak provide support for the model of Neolithic
agricultural expansions. Both the Ainu and the Batak
(and other Southeast Asian ‘‘Negrito’’ groups) were heavily
involved in trade and other interactions with surrounding
farmers (Eder, 1987; Headland and Reid, 1989; Hudson,
1999a,b; Junker, 2002; Walker, 2001), yet the fact that the
Ainu retained their own language until the 20th century
suggests that forager-farmer interactions in Southeast
Asia were very strong and unequal.
The presence of Jomon and Ainu samples in the groups
titled ‘‘Australians, Melanesians, and prehistoric Southeast Asians’’ in our Figures 1 and 2 does not mean that we
are redefining Southeast Asia to include those Japanese
groups. Our article does not discuss the position of the
Jomon/Ainu in any detail, but we cannot agree with
Turner that ‘‘Only by ignoring the fact that the three
Ainu-Jomon samples link with the prehistoric Southeast
Asians can Matsumura and Hudson (2005) claim . . . modern Southeast Asians are a product of mixing with Neolithic farmers from the north.’’ In our metric analysis, the
Jomon/Ainu cluster with Australo-Melanesians and prehistoric Southeast Asians, while in the nonmetric analysis, they group with modern Southeast Asians. While most
archaeologists see only minor influences from Neolithic
China on Jomon Japan, if sinodonty developed in East
Asia before the start of the Jomon period (as Turner suggests in his comments), then it seems likely that sinodonty
had already influenced Jomon teeth to some extent, presumably somewhere in late Paleolithic East Asia before
the Jomon people reached Japan.
While a number of studies through the 1980s and
1990s, including Turner’s own work, proposed links
between the Jomon people and prehistoric Southeast
Asians, from an archaeological perspective it has always
been difficult to argue that the Jomon populations arrived
directly from Southeast Asia. The late Paleolithic and
Jomon cultures of the Japanese Islands fall squarely into
the Northeast Asian rather than Southeast Asian sphere.
Turner here writes that, ‘‘The joining of prehistoric Southeast Asians with Jomonese and Ainu is to be expected,
since they all possess sundadont morphology and share
similar archaeological elements including shell mounds,
dental transfigurement, and early pottery.’’ None of these
archaeological elements, however, specifically link the two
regions. Early Hoabinhian shell middens are found in Peninsular Malaysia, but the Hoabinhian toolkit is so different from the Jomon as to preclude a direct connection.
Tooth ablation and filing are known at Ban Kao in Thailand (Sangvichien, 1966) and at many Jomon sites (Harunari, 1986), but tooth ablation is found much earlier in
north-central China, which may have been the center of
origin of this custom (Han and Nakahashi, 1996) in east
Eurasia. Pottery is known from late Pleistocene contexts
in China and Japan (Yasuda, 2002), but only reaches
Southeast Asia much later, with the spread of agriculture
in the late Holocene (Bellwood, 1997).
The great strength of Turner’s work is that he has developed a broad synthetic model for the dental anthropology
of East and Southeast Asia as well as Oceania and the
Americas. Our results, however, do not support that model
as regards Southeast Asia. Turner’s model is, of course, a
typological classification, and though we do not dispute
the utility of such classifications for heuristic purposes,
the reality of human diversity suggests much more complex patterns on the ground in eastern Asia. As already
noted, Turner’s own work found that the Ainu display
strong evidence for admixture. Other studies also found
that many actual dental character states are more complicated than those originally described by Turner (Schwartz
and Brauer, 1990; Manabe et al., 1992; Powell 1993; Bulbeck, 2000). If two dental nonmetric trait groups existed in
East and Southeast Asia, then there must have been a
region of admixture between those two groups. Turner’s
own work has not identified such intermediate populations, but our article proposed that post-Neolithic Southeast Asians can be assigned to that intermediate position.
Given the nature of our results, we accept that it may
not have been appropriate to continue to use the term
‘‘sundadont.’’ We are aware that Turner (1992) and Hanihara (1992) used ‘‘proto-sundadont’’ to refer to an ‘‘evolutionary grade’’ between Australians and Southeast Asians.
If, however, as our results suggest, Southeast Asian dental
traits are a result of admixture with East Asians, then the
term ‘‘proto-sundadont’’ would be inappropriate, since it
suggests a prototype for an admixed form.
One of the major difficulties with research on the population history of East and Southeast Asia has been the
scarcity of well-preserved late Pleistocene human skeletal
remains. From the perspective of cranial affinities, late
Neolithic to present-day Southeast Asians are morphologically considerably differentiated from Australians and
Melanesians, as argued by Pietrusewsky (1992, 1994,
1999). However, skeletal and dental morphologies that can
be linked with Australians or Melanesians are found in
recently excavated late Pleistocene to early Holocene skeletons from Southeast Asia, such as the Moh Khiew Cave
skeleton from southern Thailand, the Gua Gunung Runtuh specimen from Malaysia, and the Mai Da Due and Mai
Da Nuoc specimens from northern Vietnam (Cuong, 1986;
Matsumura and Zuraina, 1999; Matsumura and Pookajorn, 2005; Zuraina, 1994). The importance of these new
discoveries is clear from the comment by Turner (1987, p.
319) that ‘‘It is, of course, possible that further sampling,
particularly of older remains, may show the ancient presence of Australmelanesians in Southeast Asia. Assessment
of this possibility will require excavations that provide
Mesolithic and late Paleolithic skeletal remains.’’ Bulbeck
(2000) discussed at length some of the interpretive problems resulting from the scarcity of pre-Neolithic materials
in Turner’s Southeast Asian samples. Needless to say, further Hoabinhian skeletal remains will be of crucial importance in resolving the issue under debate here.
Turner (1995, p. 229) saw the sundadont pattern as
being ‘‘generalized and intermediate,’’ and our results certainly support the latter description. Turner (1992) proposed that these generalized/intermediate characteristics
suggest that the sundadont region may have been the
area of origin of modern humans. Our article, in contrast,
argues that sundadonty is better interpreted as the result
of admixture with post-Neolithic East Asians. The term
‘‘sundadont’’ could thus be retained, but to mean an
admixed form. In contrast, our article suggested that
‘‘sundadont’’ could be used to refer to the presumed earliest modern human dental pattern in Sunda and Sahul,
the pattern that Turner calls ‘‘proto-sundadonty.’’ While
we believe this may be the simpler terminology, we accept
that redefining existing terms may introduce confusion
into the literature. Further research and probably further
discoveries will be required to fully test Christy Turner’s
hypotheses on the dental history of East and Southeast
Asia. In the meantime, while names are important, the
real anthropological problems are the observable dental
variation and the causes of that variation.
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