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Keywords:

  • trophy skulls;
  • Torres Strait Islands;
  • infinite focus microscopy

ABSTRACT

Analysis of cut marks in bone is largely limited to two dimensional qualitative description. Development of morphological classification methods using measurements from cut mark cross sections could have multiple uses across palaeoanthropological and archaeological disciplines, where cutting edge types are used to investigate and reconstruct behavioral patterns. An experimental study was undertaken, using porcine bone, to determine the usefulness of discriminant function analysis in classifying cut marks by blade edge type, from a number of measurements taken from their cross-sectional profile. The discriminant analysis correctly classified 86.7% of the experimental cut marks into serrated, non-serrated and bamboo blade types. The technique was then used to investigate a series of cut marks of unknown origin from a collection of trophy skulls from the Torres Strait Islands, to investigate whether they were made by bamboo or metal blades. Nineteen out of twenty of the cut marks investigated were classified as bamboo which supports the non-contemporaneous ethnographic accounts of the knives used for trophy taking and defleshing remains. With further investigation across a variety of blade types, this technique could prove a valuable tool in the interpretation of cut mark evidence from a wide variety of contexts, particularly in forensic anthropology where the requirement for presentation of evidence in a statistical format is becoming increasingly important. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:575–584, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.