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The bony labyrinth and the population history of pre-Colonial Brazil: A Virtual Anthropology approach

Grant number: 20/06729-6
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): November 01, 2020
Effective date (End): February 28, 2023
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Archeology - Prehistoric Archaeology
Principal Investigator:Veronica Wesolowski de Aguiar e Santos
Grantee:Maria Ana Moreira Afonso Correia
Host Institution: Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia (MAE). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:17/16451-2 - Virtual anthropology and archaeogenomics of pre-colonial Brazil, AP.JP


Inferences regarding the relationships of kinship are a central element of the archaeological interpretations on the settlement of the American continent. Traditionally, these studies focused in morphological comparisons of anatomical regions (e.g. crania). The advance of computed tomography brought forward a new approach to anthropological inquiry, termed Virtual Anthropology. Unlike previous methods, this approach can operate with complex databases and can study effectively internal anatomical structures, such as the bony labyrinth. Relevant to this project, a recent study suggests that the bony labyrinth records genetic distances between populations, due to its prenatal formation, developmental stability, and conformation to a model of serial founder effects. Located in the petrous part of the temporal bone, this structure presents as advantages (1) its study not being destructive, (2) not being affected by diagenesis, and (3) preserving well in the archaeological context. To validate the use of this new method, this project will analyse the labyrinths of Brazilian archaeological groups (Toca do Alexandre, Justino, Caixa d'Água, Lapa do Santo, Tenório, Piaçaguera, Moraes, Capelinha and Laranjal) in order to evaluate alternative scenarios of population history in South America through morphological affinity. Thus, this study will be pioneer in the introduction of Virtual Anthropology to Brazil and may contribute with a new tool to reconstruct, explain and model the narrative of past populations in Brazil and elsewhere.

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