Steatopygia (//; Greek: στεατοπυγία) is a high degree of fat accumulation in and around the buttocks. The deposit of fat is not confined to the gluteal regions, but extends to the outside and front of the thighs, forming a thick layer reaching sometimes to the knee. It often is accompanied by the formation known as elongated labia (labia minora that may extend as much as four inches beyond the outer reaches of the vulva).
Steatopygia is a genetic characteristic of the Khoisan and some Bantu peoples. It is especially prevalent in women, but also occurs to a lesser degree in men. In most populations of Homo sapiens, females are more likely than their male counterparts to accumulate adipose tissue in the buttock region. It also has been observed among the Pygmies of Central Africa and the Onge tribe of the Andaman Islands. Among the Khoisan, it is regarded as a sign of beauty. It begins in infancy and is fully developed by the time of the first pregnancy.
Steatopygia would seem to have been a characteristic of a population that once extended from the Gulf of Aden to the Cape of Good Hope, of which Khoisan and Pygmies are remnants. While the Khoisan are most noticeable examples, it occurs in other parts of Africa, and occurs even more frequently among male Basters than among Khoikhoi women. It also is observed among Andamanese Negrito women.
It has been suggested that this feature was once more widespread. Paleolithic Venus figurines, sometimes referred to as "steatopygian Venus" figures, discovered from Europe to Asia and presenting a remarkable development of the thighs, and even the prolongation of the labia minora, have been used to support this theory. Whether these were intended to be lifelike or exaggeratory, even idealistic, is unclear. These figures do not qualify strictly as steatopygian, however, since they exhibit an angle of approximately 120 degrees between the back and the buttocks, while steatopygia is diagnosed by modern medical standards at an angle of about 90 degrees only.
The Khoisan and Bantu peoples, genetic populations considered to be among the most ancient of humans, exhibit this phenotypical characteristic with a high frequency. The earliest dates currently associated with these lineages extends back to the Paleolithic.
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