Temporal, Geographic and Identification Trends in Craniometric Estimates of Ancestry for Persons of Latin American Origin

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Bridget F. B. Algee-Hewitt
Cris E. Hughes
Bruce E. Anderson


Recent genotypic analyses of U.S.-Mexico border-crossing fatalities reveal greater indigenous ancestry in individuals who are currently unidentified and have been recovered in more recent years—called an “identification bias” in the forensic case analysis of Hispanics of Mexican origin. Given the implications of these findings for the human identification process, this study uses craniometrics to validate these genotypic results. We test if the dynamic temporal, geographic, and identification trends in Hispanic casework revealed with genetic ancestry information can be reproduced with ancestry estimates derived from the cranium. We find an inverse relationship between the amount of European and Native American ancestry and an increased representation of peoples with more Native American ancestry in more recent years. Our results support the identification bias as the individuals with greater Native American ancestry are less likely to have complete case information, particularly birthplace, on record and are more often assigned low identity status scores.

KEYWORDS: ancestry, Admixed Native American, Hispanic population, Latin America, U.S.-Mexico border, undocumented migrant deaths, skeletal identification, geographic structure, temporal trends, craniometrics, genetics

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