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An odontometric investigation of biological origins and affinities of the Yashkuns of Astore, Gilgit-Baltistan, Northern Pakistan
The Yashkun are a Dardic-speaking ethnic group who live in Gilgit-Baltistan in extreme northern Pakistan. Most researchers assert that the Yashkun are immigrants to northern Pakistan from Central Asia. However, other authorities maintain that the Yashkun are indigenous to northern Pakistan (Dani, 2001). The purpose of this research is to investigate Yashkun biological affinities to determine whether members of this ethnic group represent long-standing indigenous occupants of northern Pakistan or whether they represent immigrants from Central Asia or elsewhere. This research seeks to identify Yashkun origins through a comparative analysis of permanent tooth size allocation among 163 Yashkun young adults from the village of Astoree, located in Gilgit-Baltistan Province, northern Pakistan. Maximum mesiodistal and buccolingual measurements were obtained for all permanent teeth, except third molars, in accordance with the methods of Moorrees (1957). Individual measurements were scaled against the geometric mean to control for sex dimorphism and evolutionary tooth size reduction. These data were contrasted with 23 samples of prehistoric and living individuals from Pakistan, peninsular India, South-Central Asia, and the Iranian Plateau. Inter-sample differences in tooth size allocation were assessed with pairwise squared Euclidean distances and the patterning of phenetic affinitiesamong samples was assessed with multidimensional scaling, neighbor-joining cluster analysis, hierarchical cluster analysis, and principal co-ordinates analysis. The results indicate that Yashkuns possess rather close affinities to Wakhis and Khowars, with most distant affinities to other groups from the northern highlands of Pakistan. Yashkuns exhibit no affinities to prehistoric inhabitants of Central Asia or the Indus Valley, or to living ethnic groups of peninsular India. Hence, Dani's assertion that the Yashkuns represent the living descendants of a common, indigenous population of the Hindu Kush and Karakoram highlands appears to be confirmed.
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