Anthropology 455 Human Biology of the Pacific Study Guide for Mid-Term Exam Organization of exam

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Anthropology 455

Human Biology of the Pacific

Study Guide for Mid-Term Exam
Organization of exam: A closed book exam. The exam covers everything covered in this course. Format: short definitions (a choice) and essays.
Review: Lecture notes, Power Point presentations, handouts, and assigned readings.
Topics to be covered on the exam:
1. Geography of the Pacific: islands, island types, Sunda/Sahul, continental and oceanic islands, Remote Oceania, and Near Oceania...

2. Prehistory of the Pacific: earlier and later peopling events, dates, Lapita culture, Polynesian homeland.

3. Postcontact period: European explorers, missionaries...

4. Linguistics: migrations, Austronesian and non-Austronesian languages, methods of historical linguistics, languages of the Pacific

5. Migrations and theories of origin, the concept of race, typological racial classifications, early paradigms.

6. Microevolution; processes of evolution (selection, drift, gene flow, mutation, etc.), the Pacific as a lab for studying processes of microevolution

7. Polynesian phenotype, anthropometry, (Howells' anthropometric grouping analysis), Houghton's cold adaptation hypothesis and the counter arguments by Van Dijk

8. Archaeological and linguistic models for peopling of the Pacific.

9. Dental studies: tooth size, and dental non-metric variation (Sundadonty, Sinodonty).

10. Cranial variation, univariate and multivariate statistics.

11. Classical genetic marker and molecular genetic data: blood groups, serum proteins, HLA, DNA (nuclear and mt-DNA), Y-chromosome, globin genes.

Definitions/Short Responses: In a paragraph, define, describe, illustrate with an example (where appropriate), and generally relate these terms within the context of the course.




Andesite line



Island Southeast Asia



High island

Basaltic lavas


Wallace’s Line


Abel Tasman

Captain James Cook


Samuel Marsden

William Ellis

Johann Georg Forster



Trans-New Guinea Phlyum


Central Malayo-Polynesian

historical linguistics

Near Oceania

Remote Oceania

Lapita Cultural Complex



Joseph Birdsell


Bayard Dominick Expedition


Austroloid/ Mongoloid

cephalic index


discontinuous/ non-metric



rocker jaw

biological race

gene flow


natural selection

genetic drift


Bergmann’s rule

Allen’s rule


Houghton’s cold adaptation hypothesis

voyaging corridor

sexual selection



Express Train to Polynesia Indigenous Melanesian Inhabitants model
Voyaging Corridor/Entangled Bank model

Slow Boat to the Bismarcks

Kon Tiki

Sundadont/ Sinodont

shovel-shaped incisors

Mahalanobis’ distance


Multivariate statistics

discriminant function analysis

human red cell antigens





linkage disequilibrium



globin genes



Y-Chromosome haplotypes

9 base pair (9-bp) deletion

“Polynesian motif”

Examples of Essays:
1. Earlier interpretations of biological variation and population history were often mired in a now outdated concept called racial typology. Describe this earlier paradigm and the one that would eventually replace it. How do these approached differ from one another? Provide examples from work in Pacific physical anthropology that illustrate the earlier and later approaches.
2. Provide an overview of the languages spoken by the native peoples of the Pacific region. How are they classified? How do reconstructions based on historical linguistics compare to the evidence from archaeology for the peopling of Remote Oceania?
3 Describe the current archaeological-linguistic models that attempt to explain the immediate and ultimate origins of the inhabitants of Remote Oceania. Which of these, if any, does the evidence from biological anthropology support? Discuss.
4. Define Near/Remote Oceania. What are the implications of this ‘archaeological’ designation for the prehistory of the region? Discuss the major peopling episodes that are believed to account for the settlement of both regions. Provide details (approximate dates, the people, cultures, and languages involved. What is the role of the Lapita Cultural Complex in this interpretation of Pacific prehistory?
5. Teeth have provided biological anthropologists with an important source of information for determining biological relationships and interpreting past population histories. Describe work in this field among Pacific people (living or otherwise). What have dental anthropologists been able to determine regarding the peopling of this region. Where do the terms, Sundadonty and Sinodonty, enter into this discussion?
6. Define multivariate statistical procedures and provide at least two examples of this category of statistical procedures for the analysis of metric or continuous variation. Provide an example that uses craniometric variation in Pacific groups.
7. Philip Houghton has interpreted the ‘classic’ Polynesian phenotype as an adaptation to the Oceanic environment. After defining what is meant by a Polynesian phenotype, discuss this hypothesis and any counter proposals/objections that have been raised in the literature. Be sure to include in your answer the environmental, physiological, and biological data used in addressing this theory.

8. The Pacific has been described as a laboratory for studying micro-evolutionary processes. What are the processes (causes) of evolution? Choosing one of these named processes, describe how it has shaped/affected the biological variability seen in Pacific peoples. Use an example (one or more) from the literature to illustrate your answer.

9. What role has genetic drift, including the special forms of this evolutionary process: founder principle and bottleneck effect, had on the biological variability seen in the Pacific Islanders? Begin with a definition of genetic drift. Provide an example of this process that has used to account for human biological variation in the Pacific.

10. What is HLA? Why is it useful in tracing migrations and origins of peoples? What does the HLA evidence tell us about biological variation among Pacific peoples and what does it specifically tell us about the origins/migrations of these people. Contrast these findings with those based on archaeology.

11. What are the advantages and disadvantages of mtDNA and Y chromosome (as opposed to classical marker genetic) data for tracing human ancestry? What have recent studies of mtDNA and Y chromosome concluded regarding the origin of the Polynesians?

October 2006

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