Temporal and Geographic Variation in Body Size and Shape of Europeans from the Late Pleistocene to Recent Times

Markku Niskanen, Christopher B Ruff, Brigitte Holt, Vladimir Sládek, Margit Berner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


This chapter assesses temporal and geographic variation in body size and body shape in Europe from the Early Upper Paleolithic to recent times. It reviews some more general principles underlying variation in body form, as well as providing a brief summary of the population history of Late Pleistocene/Holocene Europe. Genetic variation may also have been introduced by partial population replacement across the Last Glacial Maximum (the LGM), as well as across the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. Body size very clearly declined and body shape changed across the LGM. At the global level, geographic variation in body size, and especially in body shape, is in part due to genetic differences acquired via long-term natural selection to produce adaptation to different thermal environments. However, genetic adaptations must also have played some role, as indicated for example by the fact that North/Central Europeans of all time periods tend to have relatively shorter tibias than Mediterranean Europeans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSkeletal Variation and Adaptation in Europeans
Subtitle of host publicationUpper Paleolithic to the Twentieth Century
Number of pages41
ISBN (Electronic)9781118628430
ISBN (Print)9781118627969
StatePublished - Dec 19 2017


  • Body shape
  • Body size
  • Geographic variation
  • Last Glacial Maximum
  • Mediterranean Europeans
  • Mesolithic-Neolithic transition
  • Population history
  • Temporal variation
  • Thermal environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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