A brief history of biological distance analysis

J. T. Hefner, M. A. Pilloud, Jane Buikstra, C. C.M. Vogelsberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

24 Scopus citations


Biological distance, or biodistance, analysis employs data derived from skeletal remains to reflect population relatedness (similarity/dissimilarity) through the application of multivariate statistical methods. The approaches used in biodistance studies have changed markedly over recent centuries, exploring phenotypic expressions assumed to be informative. Biodistance analysis began as the study of anomalous variants in the human skull, but the field has transformed over the centuries now seeking to incorporate skeletal morphology in the interpretation of genetic affinity, providing insight into the genetics governing trait expression, and providing understanding into the role of developmental biology on the expression of morphological variants. As methodological approaches improve, so too has the application of these analyses. We present here a brief historical overview of biodistance analysis research, focusing on meta-themes in the field, shifts in thinking among researchers in biological anthropology, and several of the outside influences that impact biodistance analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiological Distance Analysis
Subtitle of host publicationForensic and Bioarchaeological Perspectives
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780128019719
ISBN (Print)9780128019665
StatePublished - Jul 21 2016


  • ADNA
  • Analytical scales
  • Biodistance
  • Cranial nonmetric traits
  • Craniometrics
  • Kinship
  • Odontometrics
  • Typology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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