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Keywords:

  • paleoanthropology;
  • cut marks;
  • digital image;
  • scanning electron microscopy;
  • image enhancement;
  • taphonomy;
  • ethics;
  • microscopy

Abstract

Digital cameras are capable of producing images of cut marks and other three dimensional subjects comparable to those obtained from the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Until now, the SEM has offered unparalleled depth of field and surface rendition. SEM units are, however, expensive to acquire and maintain, and SEM image production is time-intensive. Furthermore, SEM images lack color and are often incapable of imaging bone modifications because of magnification and chamber size limitations. A digital imaging method for producing extremely high depth of field enlargements of three dimensional, sub-millimeter scale objects circumvents these problems. In our presentation we employ four case studies of hard tissue modification related to: (1) the origins of meat-eating in the human lineage; (2) evidence for cannibalistic behavior among Neanderthals; (3) pre-Columbian evidence of North American dentistry; and (4) the earliest evidence of cranial surgery in North America. Procedures for replica production, image-capture, and image enhancement are provided. The digital images produced are compared to those obtained with the SEM. Image processing software, a crucial component of this method, allows complete control of graphic data, making graphic fraud a larger threat than ever before. Issues in ethics stemming from the application of this technology to scientific analysis are considered. Anat Rec (New Anat) 261:237–246, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.