Title: What do we really know about the first Americans? Current debates about the biological diversity of Early South and Meso Americans
Speaker: Mark Hubbe, The Ohio State University (Columbus, USA)
Venue and time: Großer Seminarraum 602 (Rümelinstraße 23), Dec. 10, 12:30 s.t.
The human settlement of the Americas has been a topic of intense debate for centuries, and there is still no consensus on the tempo and mode of early human dispersion across the continent. When trying to explain the biological diversity of early groups across North, Central and South America, studies have defended a wide range of dispersion models that tend to oversimplify the diversity observed across the continent. In this talk, I aim to contribute to this debate by presenting new results exploring the cranial morphological affinities of four late Pleistocene/early Holocene specimens recovered from the caves of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The four specimens are among the earliest human remains known in the continent and permit the contextualization of biological diversity present during the initial millennia of human presence in the Americas. When analyzed in the context of biological diversity in South and North America, the show very different patterns of morphological affinity, suggesting that the early populations of the region already shared a higher degree of morphological diversity. This contrasts with previous studies of South American remains and aDNA and opens the possibility that the initial populations of North America already had a high level of morphological diversity, which was reduced as populations dispersed into the southern continent. As such, the study of these rare remains illustrates that we are probably still underestimating the biological diversity of early Americans.