Technical note: Comparability of Hrdlička's Catalog of crania data based on measurement landmark definitions

Christopher Stojanowski, Julie K. Euber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Archival sources of data are critical anthropological resources that inform inferences about human biology and evolutionary history. Craniometric data are one of the most widely available sources of information on human population history because craniometrics were critical in early 20th century debates about race and biological variation. As such, extensive databases of raw craniometric data were published at the same time that the field was working to standardize measurement protocol. Hrdlička published between 10 and 16 raw craniometric variables for over 8,000 individuals in a series of seven catalogs throughout his career. With a New World emphasis, Hrdlička's data complement those of Howells (1973, 1989) and the two databases have been combined in the past. In this note we verify the consistency of Hrdlička's measurement protocol throughout the Catalog series and compare these definitions to those used by Howells. We conclude that 12 measurements are comparable throughout the Catalogs, with five of these equivalent to Howells' measurements: maximum cranial breadth (XCB), basion-bregma height (BBH), maximum bizygomatic breadth (ZYB), nasal breadth (NLB), and breadth of the upper alveolar arch (MAB). Most of Hrdlička's measurements are not strictly comparable to those of Howells, thus limiting the utility of combined datasets for multivariate analysis. Four measurements are inconsistently defined by Hrdlička and we recommend not using these data: nasal height, orbit breadth, orbit height, and menton-nasion height. This note promotes Hrdlička's tireless efforts at data collection and re-emphasizes observer error as a legitimate concern in craniometry as the field shifts to morphometric digital data acquisition. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Hrdlička
  • craniometrics
  • measurement protocol
  • observer error

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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