Shape as a measure of weapon standardisation: From metric to geometric morphometric analysis of the Iron Age ‘Havor’ lance from Southern Scandinavia

Publication date: January 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 101

Author(s): Thomas Birch, Marcos Martinón-Torres


Traditionally, standardisation of manufacture has been investigated using metrics (e.g. length and width) and compared in terms of the coefficient of variation (CV). This paper argues that standardisation should not only be investigated via metrics, but also in terms of shape. An Iron Age lance head type (‘Havor’), known from three main weapon depositions in Southern Scandinavia, is used as a case study to test the effectiveness of shape analysis against traditional metric analysis for investigating standardisation. Geometric morphometric (GMM) analysis is used to measure the overall shape variation and to test shape difference of the same lance type coming from three different archaeological sites. The results demonstrate GMM to complement the traditional metric approach. Whilst metric measurements offer insights into Havor lance standardisation, the results from multivariate analysis of GMM data provides further explanation about the source of variation in terms of shape, including an assessment of object symmetry. This paper represents the first known methodological application of GMM analysis to iron weapons and demonstrates it to be an effective method for studying product standardisation in terms of shape variation.