Races of Homo sapiens: If not in the southwest Pacific, then nowhere

David Bulbeck*, Pathmanathan Raghavan, Daniel Rayner

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    The physical anthropology literature reveals considerable disagreement on whether discrete biological races, or subspecies, exist within Homo sapiens, and which races to recognize if they do exist. The authoritative work on zoological taxonomy by Mayr and Ashlock defines a subspecies as 'an aggregate of phenotypically similar populations... inhabiting a geographical subdivision of the [species'] range and differing taxonomically from other populations of that species' (1991: 43). Our analysis of cranial average measurements, in combination with other biological data, indicated that the autochthonous populations of the southwest Pacific would be more likely to satisfy Mayr and Ashlock's definition than any other division of humanity. Five tests (using individual cranial measurements) were then performed to confirm (or falsify) the hypothesis that the southwest Pacific indigenes would qualify as a distinct race. In all cases, the test results tended in the direction of confirmation of the hypothesis, but it was not always clear that the results were sufficiently strong to qualify as full confirmation. One positive result however clearly emerged: Australian crania dated to approximately 10,000 years ago cannot be considered specifically Australian, based on their measurements, but they can be regarded as distinctly southwest Pacific.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109-132
    Number of pages24
    JournalWorld Archaeology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


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