An Odontometric Investigation of Canary Islander Origins

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Joel D. Irish
Brian E. Hemphill


Attempts by anthropologists to account for the peopling of the Canary Islands have led to theories that call for one, two, and even four immigration events. However, most agree the Canary Island Guanche are biologically closest to Berbers from Morocco and Algeria. Genetic contributions from Arabs, Romans, and Carthaginians have also been proposed. An earlier study by Irish using Penrose analysis of odontometric data in samples of Guanche, Shawia and Kabyle Berbers, and Bedouin Arabs supports many of these proposed genetic relationships.
The present investigation expands upon this earlier work by adding samples of Carthaginians, Egyptians, and Nubians, and by using tooth size apportionment analysis, a more robust statistical approach for assessing inter-sample differences in the distribution, or allocation, of tooth size in the maxillary and mandibular dental arcades. The analysis yielded three components that account for >80% of the total variance. Cluster analysis and three-dimensional ordination of group component scores provide additional insight into Canary Island/North African relationships. Except for one early Nubian sample, the Guanche exhibit some measure of affinity to all others. However, they are most like Berbers and Carthaginians. These results suggest that Canary Islanders belong to a greater North African gene pool, yet show the closest affinities to Northwest Africans—which corroborates earlier dental and non-dental findings.