Home / Research / Projects / Human variation in the Americas: Evolution, ecology, and culture (Menéndez)


Dietary patterns of Pre-Hispanic agriculture in the Americas
Together with the Argentinian researchers Adolfo Gil and Eva Peralta (CONICET- Museo de Historia Natural de San Rafael), Menéndez is studying the role of diet on the diversification of prehistoric Central-West Argentinian populations. This project uses isotopic, paleo-pathologic, and skeletal phenotypic data to address the existence of spatial differences among the populations that inhabited Argentina (e.g. Menéndez 2016a and Menéndez 2016b). In collaboration with Gabriel Šaffa (University of Prešov and former Erasmus trainee at the DFG Center), Menéndez analyzes the demographic patterns of isotopic variation for prehistoric Central-West Argentinian populations in order to understand weaning time in hunter-gatherers, agriculturalists, and populations practicing mixed subsistence.

The role of non-random factors in shaping the human skull of South American populations
South American populations have been characterized by a high degree of anatomical variation. Menéndez investigates the influence that non-stochastic factors had on the anatomical diversification of late Holocene populations. Toward that end, she is building a database that includes skeletal data of prehistoric southern South American populations alongside ecological data corresponding to the regions they inhabited. Together with Domenico Giusti (University of Tübingen), Menéndez employs spatial statistics techniques as global and local Moran´s I correlograms, interpolation maps, and spatial regressions to assess the spatial variation of anatomical variation in South American populations.

Evolutionary processes in the diversification of South American human populations
The peopling of the Americas has been a subject of intense debate for centuries since different disciplines have contributed to diverse hypotheses on the mode and timing of the first settlers in the continent. Menéndez works on comparing the variation of early Holocene and late Holocene populations from different regions of South America (e.g. Menéndez and Lotto 2016). Currently, she is initiating the study of anatomical skeletal data from the Argentinean Pampas that will serve as a baseline for understanding the genetic and phenotypic evolution of populations of the southern cone, with implications on the peopling of the Americas.