Skull Dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians Differ Despite Close Physical Proximity

Forensic anthropologists analyze skeletal remains to establish the biological profile (sex, age, ancestry and stature). While ancestry is an important component, most research has focused on identifying individuals of African-American and European-American descent.

Now for the first time, BUSM researchers  have conducted a craniometric study (measuring the main part of the skull) on understudied and marginalized groups and found that skull dimensions of Dominicans and Haitians, who occupy a relatively small island of Hispaniola, are different from each other.

According to the researchers, while skeletal and genetic studies show that Caribbean groups are incredibly diverse, they are often lumped together under the broad ancestral category of “Hispanic,” along with many other Latin American groups.
Using standard anthropometric craniometric measurements (28 measurements) of both Dominicans and Haitians from computerized tomography (CT) scans from a major hospital in Santo Domingo, the researchers analyzed the measurements to determine similarities and differences.

“Our study demonstrates that, despite sharing a small island, Dominican and Haitian individuals can be differentiated with a fair amount of statistical certainty, which is possible due to complex population histories that have kept them separate despite their geographically close proximity,” explained corresponding author Michelle Herrera, a graduate student in the MS Program in Forensic Anthropology.

The authors believe it is important to conduct research on groups that are not represented in the typically researched skeletal collections. “Ultimately, this research can aid forensic specialists in identifying missing persons on the island of Hispaniola,” added Ms. Herrera.

These findings appear online in the journal Forensic Science International.

This work was supported by Boston University School of Medicine’s Forensic Anthropology Program.