Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Erin H. Kimmerle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lorena Madrigal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Katherine Spradley, Ph.D

Committee Member

Orhan Arslan, Ph.D.


Ancestry Proportions, Cluster Analysis, Cranial Morphology, Hispanic, Sex-biased Admixture


Today, groups considered Hispanic in the United States consist of populations whose complex genetic structures reflect intermixed diverse groups of people who came in contact during Spanish colonization in Latin America. After coming in contact and wiping out most of the Native Americans who occupied North and Latin America, the Spanish also introduced West African individuals for labor to begin developing crops to be shipped back to Europe, resulting in the Trans-Atlantic African slave trade. These migration events and differential gene flow among males and females that occurred throughout Latin America have led to populations that have been genetically transformed from what they were prior to Spanish arrival (Madrigal, 2006).

Genetic research commonly refers to individuals considered Hispanic as "tri-hybrids" of Native American, European, and African ancestry (Bertoni et al., 2003; Gonz[aacute]lez-Andrade et al., 2007). This research focuses on populations from present-day Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, all of whom experienced various population histories as these three ancestral groups came in contact. Published genetic research demonstrates that individuals from Mexico tend to have the highest mean proportion of Native American ancestry, while Puerto Rican individuals have the highest mean proportion of European ancestry, and Cuban individuals have the highest mean proportion of African ancestry (Bonilla et al., 2005; Lisker et al., 1990; Mendizabal et al., 2008; Tang et al., 2007; Via et al., 2011). The present research utilizes craniometric data from these three groups to determine whether the cranial morphology reflects similar population relationships and mean ancestry proportions as found in genetic research through Mahalanobis distance (D2), canonical discriminant function, and normal mixture cluster analyses. Sex-biased ancestry asymmetry was also tested by separating each group by sex and running the same analyses.

The results show that all three groups considered Hispanic (Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba) are significantly different from each other; however, when proxy ancestral groups are included (Guatemalan Mayan, Indigenous Caribbean, Spanish, and West African), the Mexican and Guatemalan Mayan samples are the most similar, followed by the Mexican and Indigenous Caribbean samples and the Puerto Rican and Cuban samples. The results of the normal mixture analyses indicate that Mexico has the highest mean ancestry proportion of Native American (Guatemalan Mayan) (72.9%), while the Puerto Rican and Cuban samples both have a higher mean European ancestry proportion, with 81.34% and 73.6% respectively. While the Cuban sample is not reflective of the genetic research in regards to ancestry proportion results, with the highest proportion of African ancestry over European and Native American ancestry, it does have the highest proportion of African ancestry among the three groups (18.4%). When separated by sex, the results indicate that the Mexican and Puerto Rican samples may show some evidence in sex-biased ancestry proportions, with the male individuals having a larger proportion of European ancestry and the female individuals having a larger proportion of Native American or African ancestry. Cuba, on the other hand, does not follow this trend and instead displays a higher proportion of European ancestry in females and a higher proportion of Native American and African ancestry in the males.

Techniques in the field of forensic anthropology in the United States are constantly being reanalyzed and restructured based on the changing demographics of the population, especially with the arrival of individuals from Latin America (Ennis et al., 2011). Recent samples of American Black and White individuals were included in the Mahalanobis distance (D2) and canonical discriminant function analyses in place of the ancestral proxy groups to determine the craniometric relationship of the groups within the United States. The results show that the Mexico and Guatemala samples are the most similar (D2=2.624), followed by the Cuba and American Black samples (D2=3.296) and the Puerto Rico and American White samples (D2=4.317), which each cluster together in pairs. These results reflect the population histories that took place during colonialism, with the largest amount of slave trade occurring in Cuba over the other two countries. From an applied perspective, clarification is needed in the biological definition of Hispanic and the degree of heterogeneity in each social group, as well as the relationship among groups, in order to accurately develop techniques in forensic anthropology for human identification.