Human Capital Multidisciplinary Research Center

1.5.3 Anthropological Diversity in Human Populations

Sergey Vasilyev
Project Leader

Project period


Context of Research Project within a Subject of Human Capital

The human body adaptive abilities reveal to us human potential through the human dispersal. The scientific project Anthropological Diversity in Human Populations focuses on the research of the human potential for adaptation to the different environmental conditions. These are the Far North, the Far East, the islands and the highlands. It is important to shed more light on the physiological and cognitive potentials of the ancient man during its settlement on the Eurasian continent to understand the capacity of the contemporary populations. Paleogenetics and computer tomography studies of the Upper Paleolithic Man from Sunghir (Vladimir oblast, Russia) contribute a lot to this question.  The study of the nomads’ adaptive potential in the Neolithic and Bronze Age is of great interest too. Adaptive morphological types, paleodiet, diseases of ancient people, paleodemography are approaches and methods for the study of human potential when settling new territories, sometimes with critical climatic conditions

Project Aim

Conducting a comprehensive study of the anthropological diversity and adaptive capabilities in human populations, both ancient and modern, identification of the morphological and demographic competitive factors of human dispersal

Project Objectives:

1. Studying of the human remains from Stone Age excavations.; identifying their taxonomic status: studying pathogenetic features and to trace the migration routes in ancient times

2. Identifying the dynamics of the dental morphology traits and their complexes in various populations of Northern Eurasia (Southern Urals, Volga region, Caucasus, Siberia); studying the adaptive variability in different populations based on the dental diseases data and identifying the adaptation directions

3. Conducting an intragroup study of the craniological series from different geographic zones: the North Caucasus, Sakhalin Island, Greenland Island, Lusson Island, Egypt, the Kola Peninsula, etc.

4. Studying morphology and paleodemography of the Russian first settlers in Siberia

Key Findings


A pronounced gap of socially determined boundaries with the physiological duration of the reproductive period of Kalmyks has been revealed.  The type of fertility in the populations is regulated, more characteristic of the urban population with social pressure linked to abortions percentage. A hypothesis has been proposed explaining reproductive compensation, proceeding by the type of reduction of embryonic losses, developed in generations by the evolutionary trend of biological fitness for nomadic life


Cranial studies revealed that representatives of the “Greenland type” have width of the skull smaller than its height and width of the face, in Alaska and Asian Eskimos the skull is wider and less long. However, the ancient series of Chukotka are morphologically closer to the series of modern Eskimos of Greenland and Labrador than to the series of modern Chukchi Eskimos. In ancient times, the “Greenland type” was represented both in Alaska and in Chukotka. Thus, the distribution of variants of the Eskimo anthropological type in time and space does not give definite indications of either their antiquity or genetic relationships.

A Micro-CT study of the unique Upper Paleolithic Sunghir human remains has been carried out for the research of the adaptation to cold conditions. Strong relation of the several features of the face shape to the temperature and humidity has been shown, especially of the relative sizes of the external nose, inner nose and maxillary sinuses. Judging by these features, Sunghir and Mladeč Upper Palaeolithic humans showed adaptation to a dry environment, while first was strongly associated with cold temperatures, and the second – with temperatures from warm to high.

It has been revealed that the oldest population of the European North (Oleniy ostrov burial ground) had significantly common dental pathologies. Oral health of the Olenyi ostrov inhabitants is characterized by a high level of mechanical stress, the rarity of the pronounced spread of tartar, periodontopathies and enamel hypoplasia. The absence of statistically significant differences in the frequency of manifestation of certain diseases between men and women indicates equality in access to food resources in the studied group


  1. Spitsyna N., Balinova N. Dynamics of the Formation of Physical Development and Reproductive Structure of Kalmyks (RU) // Siberian historical studies 2021 No. 3. pp. 129-139
  2. Ekaterina Stansfeld, Philipp Mitteroecker, Sergey Y.Vasilyev, Sergey Vasilyev & Lauren N. Butaric. Respiratory Adaptation to Climate in Modern Humans and Upper Palaeolithic Individuals from Sungir and Mladeč. // Nature Scientific Reports. 2021 11:7997
  3. Spitsyna N., Balinova N. Kalmyks. Problems of Adaptation of Nomadic Groups in Russia. Anthropology, Demography, Reproduction. (RU) Scientific Digest, Issue No. 3 (8). 2022