The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

The Application of 3D Digital Microscopy in Identifying Evidence of Human Butchery of Extant Lemurs


Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

March 28, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 2/3/4/5 Add to calendar

Faunal remains at archaeological sites can be used to address direct anthropogenic impacts on ecosystems. However, due to the late arrival of modern humans to Madagascar the decline of megafauna on the island, particularly of giant lemurs, remains under debate. Currently, direct evidence of human skeletal modifications and hunting of megafauna is limited. In addition, methods previously used to address the extent of post mortem processing of megafauna, including cut mark morphology, are time-consuming, introduce unwanted measurement errors, and are prohibitively expensive for large samples. However, 3D digital microscopy can address these limitations and provide detailed morphometric analysis (e.g. depth, width, and length) of potential bone modifications associated with human butchery. In this poster, we test the use of 3D digital microscopy using a Keyence 3D digital Microscope VHX-2000E to analyze bone modifications on epoxy resin positive casts of femora and humeri from Pachylemur, Palaeopropithecus, and Archaeolemur from four paleontological sites in Southwest Madagascar including Ampasambazimba, Beloha Anavoha, Tsirave, and Manombo Toliara. Preliminary results of our analysis show an overall improvement (<1mm) in morphometric data of cut marks compared to previous methods and lends archaeological support to the role of human hunting in Malagasy megafaunal decline. In addition, frequencies of modification in this study average 1-3% at Ampasambazimba, Beloha Anavoha, and Manombo Toliara, and 13% at Tsirave suggest potential site bias. Future work will address this bias and use 3D microscopic image stitching to identify tool class and usage patterns in megafaunal butchery.