To investigate the biological diversity of the late Bronze and Iron Age populations in the Armenian Highland by nonmetric cranial traits, evaluate the genetic continuity in the development of the modern Armenian gene pool, and compare the results obtained with genetic data.
Materials and methods
Twenty‐eight nonmetric cranial traits were scored on 498 adult crania from different late Bronze and Iron Age cemeteries, as well as from modern Armenians and other European populations. We carried out a biodistance analysis between populations using the mean measure of divergence (MMD) statistics, tested the spatial–temporal model of population structure, and assessed the diversity within the late Bronze and early Iron Ages by using the values of variability index (Fst).
The biodistance analysis revealed a close relationship among different ancient Armenian populations and between the average frequencies of the three sequential periods (late Bronze Age, early Iron Age I and II) and modern Armenians. A gradual increase of variability (Fst) within the three successive periods was observed.
The analysis of nonmetric trait data reflects deep roots and continuity in the formation of the Armenian population. Since at least the Late Bronze Age, owing to permanent isolation, no significant changes have occurred in the Armenian gene pool. An increase in variability over the successive periods reflects the process of population differentiation from a single gene pool while maintaining average trait frequencies. The congruence of the results obtained with the genetic data confirms, once more, the possibility of using nonmetric cranial traits as a proxy for genetic markers.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.