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Cranial Nonmetric Trait Database

Cranial Nonmetric Traits Database

[image of skull]

Inspired by the example of Dr. W.W. Howells late of Harvard University who published his life-time’s worldwide collection of cranial measurements on the internet, I here offer my files of cranial nonmetric data as a freely available resource. The tables are constructed in the program Excel. The query and other functions of this flexible program can be used to study the morphological features themselves; i.e. patterns of variation according to age, sex, side and population, as well as intertrait correlation and effects of artificial cranial deformation. Additionally, I have tried to provide sufficient provenience to facilitate exploration of various ethnogenetic problems. With the flexibility provided by Excel, investigators can pull the tables apart and re-assemble them in any way appropriate to their particular purpose.

Reflecting my own long-time ethnogenetic research interest, the regions best represented in the tables are the Arctic and Northwestern North America. Since 1991 many of these museum collections have been repatriated under the terms of NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and are no longer available for original research. Therefore, I hope that this website may be particularly useful in supplementing existing osteobiological records for the Native peoples of these regions.

Nancy S. Ossenberg, PhD., Professor Emeritus,
Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, Queen's University


Cranial nonmetric trait data representing Native America and Greenland, Northeast Asia, Eurasia, Africa and the South Pacific were collected by one observer during museum surveys 1963-2003.

Record count = 8016
Variable count = 84

Columns 2 – 7 contain provenience for the crania. Arranged in nested order from broadest to most specific the columns provide information for each individual according to geographical origin, culture period, and cultural or tribal affiliation. See the User Guide for the complete Record Layout.

Related Data

The William W. Howells Craniometric Data Set



Ossenberg, N.S. 1969. Discontinuous Morphological Variation in the Human Cranium. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Toronto: Toronto, Ontario.

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 1970. The Influence of Artificial Cranial Deformation on Discontinuous Morphological Traits. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 33 (3): 357-371.

Ossenberg, N.S. 1974. The Mylohyoid Bridge: An Anomalous Derivative of Meckel's Cartilage. Journal of Dental Research 53 (1): 77-82.

Ossenberg, N.S. 1974. Origins and Relationships of Woodland Peoples: The Evidence of Cranial Morphology. In: Aspects of Upper Great Lakes Anthropology: Papers in Honor of Lloyd A. Wilford, edited by Elden Johnson. St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society: 15-39.

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 1976. Within and Between Race Distances in Population Studies Based on Discrete Traits of the Human Skull. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 45 (3): 701-715.

Ossenberg, N S. 1977. Congruence of Distance Matrices Based on Cranial Discrete Traits, Cranial Measurements, and Linguistic-Geographic Criteria in Five Alaskan Populations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 47 (1): 93-8.

Ossenberg, N.S. 1981. Mandibular Torus: A Synthesis of New and Previously Reported Data and a Discussion of its Cause. In: Contributions to Physical Anthropology, 1978-1980, edited by Jerome S. Cybulski. Ottawa, Ontario, National Museums of Canada: 1-52

Ossenberg, N S. 1981. An Argument for the Use of Total Side Frequencies of Bilateral Nonmetric Skeletal Traits in Population Distance Analysis: the Regression of Symmetry on Incidence. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 54 (4): 471-9.

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 1986. Isolate Conservatism and Hybridization in the Population History of Japan: The Evidence of Nonmetric Cranial Traits. In: Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers in Japan: New Research Methods 27, edited by Takeru Akazawa and C. Melvin Aikens: 199.

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 1987. Retromolar Foramen of the Human Mandible. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 73 (1): 119.

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 1992. Native People of the American Northwest: Population History from the Perspective of Skull Morphology. In: The Evolution and Dispersal of Modern Humans in Asia, edited by Takeru Akazawa, Kenichi Aoki, and Tasuku Kimura. Japan, Hokusen-sha Publishing Co.: 493-530

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 1994. Origins and Affinities of the Native Peoples of Northwestern North America: The Evidence of Cranial Nonmetric Traits. In: Method and Theory for Investigating the Peopling of the Americas. Corvallis OR: Center for the Study of the First Americans. Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University: 79-115.

Ossenberg, N. S. 2005. Ethnogenesis in the Central and Eastern Arctic: A Reconstruction Based on Cranial Nonmetric Traits. In: Contributions to the Study of the Dorest Palaeo-Eskimos, edited by Patricia D. Sutherland. Gatineau, Quebec, Canadian Museum of Civilization: 33-56.

Ossenberg, Nancy Suzanne, Yukio Dodo, Tomoko Maeda, and Yoshinori Kawakubo. 2006. Ethnogenesis and Craniofacial Change in Japan from the Perspective of Nonmetric Traits. Anthropological Science 114, no. 2: 99-115.

Ossenberg, Nancy S. 2011. Intraobserver Scoring Replicability. [unpublished article].

Ossenberg, N.S. (2013). Brief Communication: Cranial Nonmetric Trait Database on the Internet. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 152:551-553. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22377



Bandi, H.-G. and R. Blumer. 2002. Investigations by Swiss Archaeologists on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. In: Archaeology of the Bering Strait Region, edited by D.E. Dumond and R.L. Bland, University of Oregon Anthropological Papers no. 59: 25-59.

Blumer, R. 2002. Radiochronological Assessment of Neo-Eskimo Occupations on St. Lawrence Island. In: Archaeology of the Bering Strait Region, edited by D.E. Dumond and R.L. Bland, University of Oregon Anthropological Papers no. 59: 61-106.

Bronshtein, M.M. and K.A. Dneprovsky. 2002. The Northeastern Chukchi Peninsula during the Birnirk and Early Punuk Periods. In: Archaeology of the Bering Strait Region, edited by D.E. Dumond and R.L. Bland, University of Oregon Anthropological Papers no. 59: 153-166.

Coltrain, J.B., M.G. Hayes and D.H. O'Rourke. 2006. Hrdlicka's Aleutian Population-Replacement Hypothesis: A Radiometric Evaluation. Current Anthropology 47, No.3 (June 2006): 537-548.

Kozintsev, A.G. 1992. Ethnic Epigenetics: a New Approach. Homo 43, 1993: 213-244.

Molto, J.E. 1979. The Assessment and Meaning of Intraobserver Error in Population Studies Based on Discontinuous Cranial Traits. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 51: 333-344.

Turner, C.G. II. 1971. Three-rooted Mandibular First Permanent Molars and the Question of American Indian Origins. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 34: 229-242.


Barnes, Ethne. 1994. Developmental Defects of the Axial Skeleton in Paleopathology. University Press of Colorado.

Bonnet, C., L. Chaix, M. Honegger and C. Simon. 1995. Kerma, Soudan: 1993-1994, 1994-1995. La Revue Genava. Nouvelle Serie, Tome XLIII.

Hauser, G. and G.F. DeStefano. 1989. Epigenetic Variants of the Human Skull. Schweizerbart, Stuttgart.

Morgan, M.E. 2010. Pecos Pueblo Revisited: The Biological and Social Context. Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology 85. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Myster, Susan M.T. 2001. Ten Thousand Years of Population Relationships at the Prairie-Woodland Interface: Cranial Morphology in the Upper Midwest and Contiguous Areas of Manitoba and Ontario. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Tennessee: Knoxville, Tennessee.

Wackenheim, Auguste. 1974. Roentgen Diagnosis of the Craniovertebral Region. New York, Springer-Verlag.

Last Updated: 11 November 2013