Mesolithic and Chalcolithic Mandibular Morphology: Using Geometric Morphometrics to Reconstruct Incomplete Specimens and Analyse Morphology

New article published by Ricardo Miguel Godinho, Cláudia Umbelino and Célia Gonçalves, in Open Archaeology.

Human skeletal remains are routinely used to examine cultural and biological aspects of past populations. Yet, archaeological specimens are frequently fragmented/incomplete and so excluded from analyses. This leads to decreased sample sizes and to potentially biased results. Digital methods are now frequently used to restore/estimate the original morphology of fragmented/incomplete specimens. Such methods include 3D digitisation and Geometric Morphometrics (GM). The latter is also a solidly established method now to examine morphology. In this study, we use GM-based methods to estimate the original morphology of incomplete Mesolithic and Chalcolithic mandibles originating from present Portugal and perform ensuing morphological analyses. Because mandibular morphology is known to relate to population history and diet, we hypothesised the two samples would differ. Thirty-seven specimens (12 complete and 25 incomplete) were CT-scanned and landmarked. Originally complete specimens were used as reference to estimate the location of absent anatomical landmarks in incomplete specimens. As predicted, our results show shape differences between the two samples which are likely due to the compounded effect of contrasting population histories and diets.

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