Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Jantz, Fred H. Smith

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, Lyle W. Konigsberg, David A. Gerard


Prehistoric Minnesota was characterized by significant cultural and environmental diversity. Throughout much of its 10,000 year history, this region has witnessed the interaction of human populations with their physical environment, developing adaptive strategies to effectively utilize the resources distinctive to this area. Archaeological research has focused on reconstructing the culture history and the nature and extent of relationships between contemporaneous archaeological manifestations and across major environmental biomes. The research presented here applies a bioarchaeological perspective to the investigation of past population relationships through the integration of archaeological and osteological data. This approach facilitates a more holistic understanding of human interaction in this region during the past 10,000 years of human history.

A multivariate discriminant function analysis was conducted on a large sample of human crania recovered from sites dating from the Early Prehistoric to the Historic period in Minnesota and surrounding border areas in Ontario, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa. A series of 41 measurements, representing the major cranio-facial functional complexes, was taken on 380 crania. Interpretation of results provided insight into the degree of genetic continuity among groups, biological homogeneity of defined archaeological cultures and burial complexes, and evaluation of proposed transformation models.

Results indicate overall biological continuity between Paleoindian, Archaic and Initial Woodland groups. Significant biological discontinuity between Late Woodland groups and the populations of the Middle Missouri Initial variant, Oneota, and Mississippi traditions suggests in-migration of various populations during this time. The Late Woodland Blackduck phase and the Arvilla and Devils Lake - Sourisford burial complexes exhibit significant biological heterogeneity while the Oneota, Mississippi, and Middle Missouri traditions are more homogeneous. This distinction is most likely due to the more sedentary settlement-subsistence pattern of the southern horticulturalists and the continuation of the more mobile lifestyles of the northern groups despite documented increases in population sizes, intensive collection and reliance on wild rice, and other socio-political practices characteristic of transformation to a tribal pattern of sociopolitical organization. Results further indicate no definitive ancestor - descendant relationships between late prehistoric archaeological manifestations and resident historic tribal groups. These results may reflect the coalescence of many different tribal communities as a result of the effects of European colonization including disease, forced relocation to military forts and reservations, and manipulation by fur-trade companies to better pursue their own economic interests.

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