Analysis of cut marks on ancient human remains using confocal profilometer

Xavier Casanova, Mònica Roldán, M Eulàlia Subirà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Different types of superficial bone marks are present on human remains and often are difficult to interpret. Diagenetic processes, vascularization owns marks or human action are some of them. To discriminate the different kinds of marks that can be found on ancient remains has always been a challenge in an anthropological study. The aim of this project is to valorate the use of confocal profilometry (Leica DCM 3D), to discriminate different kinds of marks (butchery related, taphonomic, vascular, and suture related). Macroscopic and microscopic differences have been found between all groups of marks. Whereas taphonomic and butchery related marks had been previously described, this work has shown depth and morphology to be the main characteristics in vascular marks, with aggrupation and location near a suture being characteristic in suture marks. A new method of study has been proposed that is aimed at differentiating trampling and taphonomic marks from butchery related marks. Butchery marks display a greater depth and complexity than taphonomic marks, with both parameters being the only ones displaying significant differences between groups. Despite this, depth and complexity appear as when a discriminant function is generated. Confocal profilometry techniques provide three-dimensional information of the sample without any manipulation, and allow quantitative information to be obtained on the studied volume. In addition, the stitching system allows large areas to be analysed in order to provide information representative of the sample. This new technique, combined with the conventional techniques used in the field of anthropology, will allow a very accurate identification of different types of marks on human remains in the field of anthropology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-26
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Historical Archaeology & Anthropological Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • butchery marks
  • confocal profilometer
  • human remains
  • iberian
  • nailed skulls
  • taphonomic marks


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