A new method for 3D geometric morphometric shape analysis: The case study of handaxe knapping skill

Gadi Herzlinger*, Naama Goren-Inbar, Leore Grosman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The following study presents a novel method for computerized 3D geometric morphometric shape analysis of archaeological artifacts. It consists of a newly developed tool for automated positioning of 3D digital models and the following placement of 3D homologous landmarks for geometric morphometric analysis. It provides a quick and easy method for acquiring high-resolution 3D landmark coordinate data. This tool is applicable to a wide range of objects which have two opposed faces of relatively similar size and can be consistently positioned along their maximal length in planform view. The acquired data can be subjected to common multivariate statistical procedures for the quantitative description and analysis of shape variability in an assemblage. The method is applied here to a case study of experimentally produced assemblages of Acheulian handaxe replicas made by six knappers of differing skill levels. An analysis is performed to test whether the shapes of the handaxes can be used to classify them according to their knapper's skill level. Generalized Procrustes analysis (GPA), principal component analysis (PCA) and discriminant analysis (DA) are applied to the landmarks' coordinates. The results indicate that applying DA to PC scores allows a reliable classification of artifacts according to the skill level of their knappers, with a minimal misclassification rate. Thus, this method demonstrates that application of high-resolution 3D geometric morphometric methods can be used for the quantitative differentiation of skill levels based on tool morphology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)163-173
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was generously funded by ISF grant no. 27/12 given to NG-I and Yad-Hanadiv grant no. 7131 given to LG. The authors would also like to express their gratitude to Dan Pri-Tal, Ortal Harush, Alex Bogdanovsky, Ahiad Ovadia and all the other members of the Computerized Archaeology Laboratory at the Hebrew University for their assistance in scanning the artifacts and the processing of the digital models. The experimental handaxes were produced by Bo Madsen, Dodi Ben-Ami, Dov Ganchrow, Michael Hanuna and Moti Lazer. Special thanks to Omry Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority for providing access to the assemblage produced by Michael Hanuna. Finally, we thank Gonen Sharon, Nira Alperson-Afil and Ariel Malinsky-Buller for their valuable advice and assistance. Sue Gorodetsky edited the manuscript with her usual professionalism and dedication. Finally, we would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers who provided helpful and constructive comments which substantially improved this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • 3D geometric morphometrics
  • Acheulian handaxes
  • Discriminant analysis
  • Experimental archaeology
  • Homologous landmarks
  • Skill level


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