Human Variation Files

Are your ideas about human variation scientific? Or do they just arise from "folk taxonomies" that you have absorbed from your culture? The links on this page will help you to explore some of the ways that we understand and categorize biological variation among humans.

First, take this quiz modified (with permission) from an anthropology course taught by Dustin Wax in New York. Can you pick out which of these people is from West Africa? Click here to take the quiz.

Beginning in 1981, I asked students in my bioanthropology and anatomy classes to help compile a database of biological traits that we could use in studying human variation. This collection contains data from university students from Providence RI to Calgary AB. The two files contained here are the data collection form (and instructions to students) and the Excel file that contains the results.

File Name


Human Variation Lab Guide

This file contains basic instructions and data collection forms.

Human Variation Database (Excel)

This file contains data collected by students.

In addition to the instructions and information in the data collection form, there is a number of other resources available for people wishing to learn more about the measurements and the research that is based on them.



National Cntr Health Statistics (US) Anthropometric Reference Data 1988−1994.

National Kidney Foundation

Describes common methods and shows data tables.

Human Systems Info Analysis Center

Contains data files and anatomical descriptions of landmarks for measurements.

NASA Human-Systems Integration Standards Contains some selected data, but good visuals of the way that body measurements are made.

Anthropometry in Belgium

Data tables of Belgians by age and for people in wheelchairs

Centers for Disease Control (US) Growth Charts Measurements of children at various stages (like what you see in the pediatrician's office).

Here are a couple of files in the Anatomy  and Physiology (Teaching) page that show some of the in-class activities and lab exercises that we did based on this type of measurement. For your convenience, they are listed below.

File Name


Comparative Measurement

This file contains data and a few challenge questions related to the relative body-size measurements of Americans compared to people in other countries.

Anthropometry Activity

This is an ice-breaker lab for basic anatomy & physiology classes that focuses on human measurement and the nature of scientific inquiry

Estimating Stature

Contains formulae for estimating stature (standing height) from the lengths of limb bones.

Here is a link to a recent review of the status of studies of human biological variation.

File Name


Bioanthropology 2007 Links to presentations, summary tables, and audio file of the 2007 annual bioanthropology update given to the members of the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges.