Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of Geometric Morphometrics in Archaeology

Publication date: Available online 25 April 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science
Author(s): Mercedes Okumura, Astolfo G.M. Araujo
Geometric Morphometrics (GM) is a method originally applied in Evolutionary Biology studies, using the analysis of change in size and shape in order to better understand ontogenetic sequences, phylogenetic relations, among other issues. The application of GM in archaeological materials has seen a sharp increase in the last decade, mostly associated with theoretical approaches from Evolutionary Archaeology. This is not an isolated case, since most methods used by Evolutionary Archaeologists have been borrowed from Biology, provoking discussion with regard to the future development of Evolutionary Archaeology and its methods (Lycett, 2015). This article aims to discuss some concepts that have been directly borrowed from the application of GM in Biological Sciences and that have not been subject to much thought when used in Archaeology. Such concepts include homology and landmark types, the concept of modularity, as well as the idea of allometry. As much as archaeologists using GM can learn from past discussions held by biologists regarding the above mentioned concepts, it is high time for archaeologists to further discuss ideas concerning the use of these concepts in archaeological studies.