Use of proximal femur shape to determine ancestry has appeal, but its validity is problematic because of unaddressed issues associated with skeletal plasticity, within- and between-population variation, sample selection, and interobserver error. In this paper, I inspect within- and between-group variation in proximal femur shape using five groups (American Blacks, American Whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Polynesians), and examine the affect of three environmental variables (subsistence strategy, physical terrain, and geographical region). Finally, I consider the validity of using the proximal femur to assess ancestry. The results show that there is significant within-group variation in proximal femur shape. Among Native Americans, both geographical location and subsistence strategy have a significant affect on proximal femur shape. Nevertheless, this study generally verifies the assertion that the proximal femur can be used reliably to distinguish Native Americans from American Blacks and Whites, but its precision may be reduced in some geographical regions.
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