In The Aleutian and Commander Islands and Their Inhabitants (Philadelphia: Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, 1945), Hrdlička proposed a population replacement event in the Aleutian Islands approximately 1,000 years ago based on a perceived temporal shift in cranial morphology. However, the archaeological record indicates cultural, and presumed population, continuity for more than 4,000 years. We use mtDNA haplogroup data in the series of prehistoric eastern Aleutian samples (n = 86) studied craniometrically by Hrdlička to test alternative hypotheses regarding population continuity or replacement in the region. This molecular characterization, in conjunction with direct dating of individual specimens, provided increased resolution for hypothesis testing. Results indicate an apparent shift in mtDNA haplogroup frequencies in the eastern Aleutians approximately 1,000 years ago, in concert with changes in mortuary practices and isotopic signatures reflecting resource acquisition strategies. The earliest Aleut populations were characterized by a high frequency of haplogroup A, as are most modern populations of the North American arctic. Later prehistoric peoples in the Aleutians were characterized by a high frequency of haplogroup D and a correspondingly lower frequency of haplogroup A, a pattern typified by modern Aleut populations.
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Vol. 81 • No. 4