Axis: The Online Journal of CAHId, Vol 2, No 1 (2010)

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3D ID: An Assessment of its Utility, and an Analysis of the Potential of 3D Geometric Morphometrics in Ancestry Determination from the Skull

Nicholas Lockyer


The attribution of ancestry from skeletal remains is of importance in a numberof anthropological disciplines. Current opinions vary on the degree, and originof human variation within and between populations. Cranial morphology hasbeen used in this context on a number of occasions. The skull is one area ofanatomy in which variation is easily detectable with the naked eye. Thequantification of these differences using metric methods has been attemptedin a number of studies and has led to the development of programs such asFORDISC and CRANID. However, these methods rely on distancemeasurements which are difficult to replicate and do not give sufficientattention to vital areas of morphology. 3D shape analysis using landmarkingprograms such as AMIRA removes these issues, and allows a far morespecific and detailed analysis of cranial variation. The recent release of 3DID, has bought cranial morphometrics into the field of 3D shape analysis.Although in its idea it fills a definite gap in cranial analysis, in practice it showsno improvement on previous 2D methods. With a cross validation of its ownsample at 67% it can have little utility in the world of modern anthropology.This paper demonstrates through a number of parallel analyses, that 3D IDdoes not fulfill its intended purpose. It also demonstrates the benefits ofmerging methods of metric and morphological cranial analysis with the use of3D landmarking.

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Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification. University of Dundee. College of Life Sciences. MSI/WTB/JBC Complex, Dow Street Dundee. DD1 5EH. Scotland UK.