3-dimensional microscope analysis of bone and tooth surface modifications: comparisons of fossil specimens and replicas

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Abstract

Cut-marks on fossil bones and teeth are an important source of evidence in the reconstruction of ancient butchery practices. The analysis of butchery marks has allowed archaeologists to interpret aspects of past subsistence strategies and the behavior of early humans. Recent advances in optical scanning microscopy allow detailed measurements of cut-mark morphology to be undertaken. An example of this technology is the Alicona 3D InfiniteFocus imaging microscope, which has been applied recently to the study of surface modifications on bones and teeth. Three-dimensional models generated by the Alicona microscope have been used to identify cross-sectional features of experimental cut-marks that are characteristic for specific cutting actions (e.g., slicing, chopping, scraping) and different tool types (e.g., metal versus stone tools). More recently, this technology has been applied successfully to the analysis of ∼500,000 year-old cut-marked animal bones from Boxgrove (U.K.), as well as cannibalized 14,700 cal BP year-old human bones from Gough's Cave (U.K.). This article describes molding methods used to replicate fragile prehistoric bones and teeth, where image quality was adversely affected by specimen translucency and reflectivity. Alicona images generated from molds and casts are often of better quality than those of the original specimen. SCANNING 33: 316–324, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Ancillary