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Frances Rivera
PhD student
Darwin College
Dept. of Archaeology & Anthropology
University of Cambridge



Project Supervisor Funding
How Thick-Headed are we? Differences between robust and gracile cranial vault thickness of modern humans Marta Mirazon Lahr LQWT Project
In-Africa Project
Cambridge Overseas Trust
Anthony Wilkin Fund
Dorothy Garrod Trust
Darwin College Travel Fund

It is a general assumption that skeletal gracility is a unique characteristic of modern humans relative to other species of Homo. This is to say, modern humans are marked by the general reduction (or lesser degree of expression) of certain morphological features, such as bone thickness . Further expressions of cranial gracility include the general reduction of tooth dimensions and less prominence of superstructures (i.e. supraorbital and nuchal ridges, tuberosities and tori etc.). Considering that superstructures are often minimally expressed in the majority of modern humans (i.e. Lahr & Wright, 1996), although not all (e.g. Australian Aborigines, Brown et al. 1979), it is reasonable to assert and characterise modern humans as gracile. However, gracility is not a distinct modern human trait when considering cranial thickness.

My project aims at understanding what determines cranial thickness across species of the genus Homo and what affects its variation within Homo sapiens. Essentially, by characterizing the components of cranial vault thickness and identifying patterns of change (or lack thereof), potential influential factors (e.g. genetic, plastic, biomechanical, pathological etc.) on vault thickness may be identified. Such a result would hopefully yield insights into the effect of phylogenetic and/or physiological mechanisms in shaping the evolution of a modern human cranial morphology. 



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