Chinese immigrant population history in North America based on craniometric diversity

Ryan W. Schmidt, Noriko Seguchi, Jennifer L. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, Chinese immigrant population history and structure was assessed using craniometric diversity in two historic cemeteries located in North America. Analyses addressed questions of population history, migration, and geographic origin for Chinese immigrants to the United States in the late 1800s. Craniometric diversity was assessed by the use of the R-matrix method on 19 metric traits in 62 male Chinese immigrant individuals. Using a population genetic model (Relethford- Blangero), our results indicate a low level of genetic diversity for these Chinese immigrants. Principal coordinate plots and neighbor-joining trees based on the morphological distances transformed from the R-matrix showed that the Chinese immigrant sample clusters closest to known East Asian populations. Further, we substantiate the biological origin for the Chinese immigrants as coming from South China. A historical reading suggests that the majority of Chinese emigrating to the United States departed and were born in southern China. Biological distances for the Chinese immigrants are more similar to samples from Guangdong Province and surrounding areas than to regions in North China. Identification bricks (grave markers) recovered during excavation in Nevada revealed two individuals born in Tai'shan, a city located along the Pearl River Delta and west of Hong Kong, a port used by Westerners during the late 19th century and used as a point of departure for many emigrating from mainland China. This evidence supports the historical and archaeological record and confirms the use of craniofacial variability to answer questions of population history and structure. This study is the first to assess Chinese immigrant population history using biological data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-19
Number of pages11
JournalAnthropological Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology


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