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Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10

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Journal of Archaeological Science

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Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of

Geometric Morphometrics in Archaeology
Mercedes Okumura a, *, Astolfo G.M. Araujo b, c
Laboratorio de Estudos Evolutivos Humanos, Departamento de Gen etica e Biologia Evolutiva, Instituto de Bioci^ ~o Paulo, Brazil
encias, Universidade de Sa
b ~o Paulo, Brazil
Instituto de Estudos Avançados, Universidade de Sa
Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia, Universidade de Sa~o Paulo, Brazil

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Geometric Morphometrics (GM) is a method originally applied in Evolutionary Biology studies, using the
Received 17 June 2016 analysis of change in size and shape in order to better understand ontogenetic sequences, phylogenetic
Received in revised form relations, among other issues. The application of GM in archaeological materials has seen a sharp in-
13 September 2017
crease in the last decade, mostly associated with theoretical approaches from Evolutionary Archaeology.
Accepted 24 September 2017
Available online xxx
This is not an isolated case, since most methods used by Evolutionary Archaeologists have been bor-
rowed 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
Geometric Morphometrics
directly borrowed from the application of GM in Biological Sciences and that have not been subject to
Evolutionary Archaeology much thought when used in Archaeology. Such concepts include homology and landmark types, the
Stone tools concept of modularity, as well as the idea of allometry. As much as archaeologists using GM can learn
Interdisciplinarity 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.
© 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

1. Introduction Ecology, including Optimal Foraging Theory, widely applied by ar-

chaeologists to the study of prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups
1.1. Borrowing across disciplines: from biology to the humanities to (Bettinger and Baumhoff, 1982; Broughton, 2002; Byers and Ugan,
Archaeology 2005; Raab, 1992; Smith and Winterhalder, 1981, among others).
The discussion about dangers of borrowing concepts, tools,
“I did not say that the borrowing of concepts, tools, methods, or methods, or models from other disciplines is also not a new one,
models from other sciences is necessarily bad. What is at issue is although it might have received less attention than it ought to have.
the appropriateness of the model for the job at hand.” (Service, Back in 1969, Service (1969) alerted to the dangers of mouthtalk
1969: 77). (defined by the author as the mindless borrowing of concepts) as
The borrowing of concepts, tools, methods, or models from well as the danger of borrowing techniques without concerns about
Biology to the Humanities and ultimately to Archaeology is not a the problem to be tackled. According to Keene (1983), the problem
new enterprise. The very concept of (natural) selection by Darwin is begins when there is the adoption of new techniques without re-
a borrowing from the activities set forth by animal breeders to the gard for their original intent or limitations. In that way, similarities
biological realm (Evans, 1984), developed and transformed by bi- between domains are reinforced and differences are either mini-
ologists to fit their disciplinary purposes, and then returning to the mized or disregarded, leading to a lack of adaptation of such
human sphere due to the realization that the same general ratio- techniques to the new discipline, even when that is a necessary
nale can be applied to human affairs (Dunnell, 1980). step. The author stresses that usually the lending discipline will set
Probably the most popular instance of borrowing from Biology the research agenda, carrying (mostly in an implicit way) a his-
to Archaeology would be the models originated in Evolutionary torical legacy that includes its own particular worldview. The rea-
sons for adopting concepts, tools, methods, or models from other
disciplines are usually related to the perceptions that the lending
* Corresponding author. science can produce more sophisticated and accurate analytical
E-mail address: okumura@ib.usp.br (M. Okumura).

0305-4403/© 2017 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Please cite this article in press as: Okumura, M., Araujo, A.G.M., Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of Geometric
Morphometrics in Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.015
2 M. Okumura, A.G.M. Araujo / Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10

tools than the borrowing science (Keene, 1983). These foreigner Azevedo et al., 2014; Franco et al., 2009; Iovita, 2011; Iovita and
items can also give a more scientific aura to the research (Service, McPherron, 2011; Lycett and Von Cramon-Taubadel, 2012; Lycett
1969), something pursued by some theoretical approaches in et al., 2006, 2010; Okumura and Araujo, 2013, 2014, 2016; Picin
Archaeology (Binford, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987, Watson et al., 1971, et al., 2014; Selden et al., 2014; Serwatka, 2015a; Shott and Trail,
1984; but see Dunnell, 1982, 1992; Hunt et al., 2001; Lyman et al., 2010; Thulman, 2012; Wang et al., 2012). Although the use of GM
1997, for a critique). Therefore, in some cases, such items are first applied to material culture does not necessarily involve a theoret-
borrowed and then a question has to be made in order to apply ical connection to Evolutionary Archaeology, most case studies
them (Service, 1969), which is the opposite of what should be done show this relation, which obviously has to do with the common
(Sherif and Sherif, 2009: 12). On the other hand, borrowing across interests shared by Evolutionary Biologists and Evolutionary Ar-
disciplines is also a pioneer activity, paying its price accordingly. A chaeologists, including essential concepts like selection, drift, and
rather small number of scholars are prone to “jump over the fence” transmission, as well as the idea that both Evolutionary Biology and
of disciplinary boundaries and pursue useful scientific rationales Archaeology are historical sciences (Dunnell, 1980, 1982; Eerkens
outside their “grass field”, and such ideas are often dismissed at and Lipo, 2007; Neiman, 1995; O'Brien et al., 2010; Shennan,
face value by colleagues due to lack of proper knowledge or interest 2000, 2001). The borrowing of theoretical concepts and methods
in the subject matter. This is even more critical in the Humanities, from Evolutionary Biology by Evolutionary Archaeologists is not
where the fear of the “random, chance, and unguided” (e.g., restricted to GM. Other methods, created by and widely applied in
Sandstrom, 2013) or simply a perceived danger of losing control Evolutionary Biology, such as phylogenetic methods (mainly Cla-
over discipline boundaries (e.g., Halloway, 1969; see Wallerstein, distics), have also been borrowed by Evolutionary Archaeologists
2003) are the most commonly raised issues. Interestingly, bi- (Beck and Jones, 2007; Buchanan and Collard, 2007, 2008a, 2008b;
ologists borrowing human concepts such as “intentions”, “desires” Collard, 2010; Collard and Shennan, 2000; Collard et al., 2006;
and “beliefs” to explain cell biochemistry do not show this fear Coward et al., 2008; Darwent and O'Brien, 2006; Eerkens et al.,
(Jonker et al., 2002). 2006; Harmon et al., 2006; Jordan and Shennan, 2003; Lycett,
In the last decade, Geometric Morphometrics (GM) e a method 2007, 2009a, 2009b; Marwick, 2012; O'Brien and Lyman, 2003;
developed mainly by evolutionary biologists e has seen a sharp O'Brien et al., 2001, 2002, 2012; Prentiss et al., 2011; Rivero, 2016;
increase in its application to archaeological questions. As any other Rivero and O'Brien, 2014; Rorabaugh, 2012; Tehrani and Collard,
method borrowed from Biological Sciences, some of its concepts 2002, 2009; Temkin and Eldredge, 2007; Tolstoy, 2008). This sce-
might need to be adapted for its use in archaeological materials. nario has caused some concern with regard to the future devel-
Which GM concepts were or should have been addressed by ar- opment of Evolutionary Archaeology and its methods (Lycett, 2015,
chaeologists, how the adaptation of such concepts was or was not see also O'Brien et al., 2002 for a thoughtful discussion on some
made, as well as the subsequent implications of such a process are important issues regarding the use of cladistics in archaeological
the main subject of this article. materials).

1.2. A general overview of GM application in material culture 2. GM key concepts: from biology to Archaeology

GM has been applied to several instances of archaeological Like any other method, there are concepts which are funda-
materials in order to better understand and describe shape varia- mental in applying GM to a given set of structures. These ideas,
tion. Obviously, due to the common questions shared with Evolu- which are ultimately derived from the Biological Sciences, are
tionary Biology, the greater amount of case studies involving the related to theoretical expectations about homologous structures,
use of GM will refer to research involving biological affinities in morphological integration, as well as allometric relations. Ideally,
human archaeological remains. Cranial morphology has been the use of GM applied to archaeological artefacts should be pre-
widely used to reconstruct evolutionary relationships in archaeo- ceded by a thoughtful discussion by archaeologists about the im-
logical groups (de Azevedo et al., 2011, 2017; Galland, 2015; Galland plications of borrowing such concepts, if they are adequate for use
and Friess, 2016; Gonza lez-Jose et al., 2003, 2008; Manríquez et al., in archaeological studies and if not, which would be the feasible
2011; Martínez-Abadías et al., 2006; Neves et al., 2005; Perez et al., alternatives to them. In this section, we will discuss how land-
2009; Pinhasi and von Cramon-Taubadel, 2009; von Cramon- marks, modularity, and allometry have (or have not) been
Taubadel and Pinhasi, 2011). Besides this, GM has also been used addressed by archaeologists when working with GM applied to
in human remains from archaeological contexts to investigate material culture.
variation in artificially deformed crania (Friess and Baylac, 2003;
Perez, 2007). Other uses of GM that are relevant for archaeolo- 2.1. Landmark types and the concept of homology in GM applied to
gists working with human remains are those related to sex and age Archaeology
estimation (Franklin et al., 2007, 2008; Gonzalez et al., 2009, 2011,
among others). The focus of this review will be the application of Geometric morphometrics can be defined as the quantitative
GM in archaeological artefacts (material culture) and how archae- representation and analysis of morphological shape using geo-
ologists working with material culture have been dealing with this metric coordinates. Therefore, morphometricians are interested in
borrowing. data that captured the geometry of a given morphology, as well as
The term “material culture” is part of the bedrock in the disci- in developing methods to analyze such data. This included methods
pline of Archaeology and considered the uniting feature combining for both landmark and outline data (Adams et al., 2004).
and relating all the different practices together (Oestigaard, 2004). Landmarks are “samples of discrete points which correspond
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that some archaeologists, among all the forms of a data set” (Bookstein, 1990: 63). According
knowing the explanatory potential of GM, have been applying it to to Zelditch et al. (2004: 24), landmarks should not change their
material culture in order to better understand their variation in topological positions relative to other landmarks (a one to one
time and/or space (Archer and Braun, 2010; Buchanan and Collard, correspondence in the specimens to be compared, Viscosi and
2010a; Buchanan et al., 2014; Cardillo, 2006, 2009, 2010; Cardillo Cardini, 2011), should result in a good coverage of the studied
~ eira et al., 2011, 2012; Charlin and Gonza
et al., 2016; Castin lez- morphology, be observed repeatedly and reliably, and present
, 2012; Charlin et al., 2014; Costa, 2010; Davis et al., 2015; de
Jose coplanarity. Although in recent years new approaches have been

Please cite this article in press as: Okumura, M., Araujo, A.G.M., Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of Geometric
Morphometrics in Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.015
M. Okumura, A.G.M. Araujo / Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10 3

created to overcome drawbacks regarding landmarks in GM (Aneja limitations, geometrical homology is based on the correspondence
et al., 2015; Pomidor et al., 2016), most GM studies in Archaeology of positions across specimens, partially inspired by D'Arcy
still use them. The early system of landmark classification Thompson (1942) grid transformations (Jardine, 1969). In a way,
comprised three types of landmarks (Bookstein, 1991: 63e65) and geometrical homology and biological homology share the basic
it was the subject of much discussion in the early days of GM given empirical criterion of correspondence in relative position proposed
the problems related to different homology types (biological, geo- in some traditional definitions of biological homology (Darwin,
metric, etc) and to the identification of potential directions of forces 1859: 434e5; Owen, 1848: 175e6). This concept was adopted,
acting in a given structure (O'Higgins, 2000; Slice, 2005; Zelditch relabelled as “topographic homology”, and further developed much
et al., 2004: 31).; later by Jardine (1969), who claimed that using only correspon-
An alternative to the use of landmarks are outlines. There are dence in relative position was not a satisfactory criterion.
three basic ways of analysing outlines: Fourier analysis, eigenshape, The discussion about whether or not morphometric variables
and semi-landmarks (Lawing and Polly, 2010). Fourier analysis uses can express biological homology was further addressed by
sine and cosine harmonic functions to describe the positions of MacLeod (2002). There are two main questions pointed out by the
outline coordinates (Rohlf, 1986). In eigenshape, the coordinate author and they refer, respectively, to structure-level homology and
points of a given outline are converted to a phi function, which is a point-level homology. The first question is whether a given set of
list of the angles from one point to the next one in the series landmark points based on biological elements is homologous to
(MacLeod, 1999, 2008). Finally, outlines can be analysed using another set of landmark points defined in a similar way. The second
semi-landmarks (also named sliding landmarks), which are the is whether individual landmark points are homologous with other
points located relative to one another by some consistent rule (e.g., landmark points. Because of the traditional landmark definition
equal linear spacing from preceding point, equi-angular spacing used in GM, corresponding landmarks are, by definition, geomet-
according to a radius vector originating from the centroid of a rical homologues. The author recalls that in most cases many
closed form), that collectively trace the geometry of a form different sets of landmarks will pass the similarity, conjunction, and
(Bookstein, 1991, 1997). The concept of semi-landmark was pro- congruence tests of biological homologues, rendering it impossible
posed by Bookstein (1997) as a way to circumvent the problem of to distinguish true homology (there can only be one pair of land-
biological homology observed in the “classical” landmark system. mark points that define a length on any biological structure that are
Although many authors have shown concern about the lack of biological homologues of another pair of landmark points on
homology of each point in outline methods (Bookstein et al., 1982; another homologous structure) from false homology. Although
Gunz et al., 2005), some authors consider it a minor problem, Type 1 landmarks (sensu Bookstein, 1991) may show a coincidence
because the total outline structure will be either biologically ho- between biological and topological homology (Wagner, 1994), they
mologous or functionally analogous and the greatest importance represent a minority of landmark types used for morphometrical
should be placed on the overall structure shape, not on individual analyses. For MacLeod (2002), the lack of proper developmental or
points (Ehrlich et al., 1983; Lawing and Polly, 2010; MacLeod, 1999, phylogenetic evidence makes the point homologies in GM a non-
2008; Read and Lestrel, 1986; Zelditch et al., 1995). The conceptual testable assumption.
problems regarding the lack of biological homology in some land- Most GM studies in Archaeology have used a combination of
mark types, as well as in semi-landmarks, was overcome by an landmarks and semi-landmarks or only landmarks (Fig. 1,
alternative definition given by MacLeod (1999, 2008). For the Buchanan, 2006; Buchanan et al., 2007; Buchanan and Collard,
author, landmarks are coordinate locations that bear some topo-
logical, anatomical, functional, etc. Correspondence across all
structures and it makes no sense to attribute homology to specific
points, because homology would be a property observed in entire
structures. The author also considered as landmarks evenly spaced
points whose placement is arbitrary with respect to anatomical
traits. Therefore, for MacLeod, landmarks would include all Book-
stein's landmark types, as well as semi-landmarks. It might be that
the main problem regarding the presence or absence of homology
in landmark types refers to a clear definition of that term (Lycett,
2009c) and probably there are at least two different (albeit
related) concepts of homology being used by different researchers
(Gunz et al., 2005). The classic biological definition of homology
(considered the hierarchical basis of comparative biology, Hall,
1994: 1), refers to morphological structures in biological beings
that present similarities of structure, physiology or development
related to a shared evolutionary ancestry, meaning that only
explicit entities of selection or development can be considered
homologous (Gunz et al., 2005). Although such a traditional defi-
nition seems to be able to encompass many different biological
areas, in reality a single definition of homology cannot be applied to
all elements and all levels in the hierarchy of biological organiza-
tion (which includes molecules, genes, cells, organs, embryos, or-
ganisms, populations, communities, etc, Hall, 1994: 1). Leaving
aside that discussion, there is what some authors call “geometric
homology”, which is a concept related to GM, where homology
becomes synonymous with morphological points presenting cor-
respondence, clearly ruling out any possibility of such points being Fig. 1. Example of use of landmarks (large dots) and semilandmarks (small dots) in
entities of selection (Gunz et al., 2005). Regardless of such stemmed bifacial points (adapted from Gonzalez-Jose
 and Charlin, 2012).

Please cite this article in press as: Okumura, M., Araujo, A.G.M., Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of Geometric
Morphometrics in Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.015
4 M. Okumura, A.G.M. Araujo / Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10

Fig. 2. Example of homology among landmarks in different point types (adapted from Okumura and Araujo, 2014).

2007; Cardillo, 2010; Charlin et al., 2014; Costa, 2010; Lenardi and practices, whose creation, transmission and extinction can be
Merwin, 2010; Okumura and Araujo, 2013, 2014, 2016; Scartascini explained by Cultural Transmission Theory (Cavalli-Sforza and
et al., 2009; Shott and Trail, 2010; Thulman, 2012), and a few Feldman, 1981; Boyd and Richerson, 1985). This view is also
have used Fourier analysis (Cardillo, 2010; Fox, 2015; Friess and shared by Barrientos (2010), who presents the concept of homology
Baylac, 2003; Gero and Mazzullo, 1984; Iovita, 2009, 2010; as a correspondence of points across lithic artefacts, not necessarily
Serwatka, 2015b). Although homology is one of the basic con- implying a common evolutionary or developmental pathway. The
cepts to define the optimality of landmarks, there has been very author justifies his view, recalling that one of the aims of GM
little discussion regarding the implications of landmark and semi- studies is to create meaningful information on morphological
landmark uses in GM studies applied to archaeological material variation across specimens (O'Higgins, 2000), regardless of their
culture. One exception to this point would be the works by Lycett genealogical relationships. Actually, the way landmark or outline
(2009c; Lycett et al., 2006; Lycett and Chauhan, 2010; Lycett and sets from a biological element relate to real homologous structures
von Cramon-Taubadel, 2013), one of the pioneers to discuss prob- is quite difficult to access due to the frequent combination different
lems related to applying GM methods to artefacts, recalls that most types of landmarks (sensu Bookstein, 1991, 1997) and therefore
lithic artefacts do not present many obvious identifiable “homolo- different “levels” of homology (Barrientos, 2010). Cardillo (2010)
gous” (correspondent) points. For the author, overcoming this proposes that in the case of archaeological artefacts, the choice of
obstacle and demonstrating the potential of applying GM to answer points must be related to research questions, as well as to the to-
archaeological questions was the main challenge facing the science pological particularities of artefact types, and technical and
of lithic morphometric analysis. The author also proposes using morphological criteria. A key issue here is that as Lycett has
cladistics to test the hypothesis of morphological homology (cor- repeatedly pointed out (Lycett, 2009c; Lycett and Chauhan, 2010),
respondence of form) being equivalent to phylogenetic homology there are several ways of defining “homology” both in biology and
(due to descent via a common ancestor, Lycett, 2007) in lithic ar- in archaeology (geometrically, developmentally, and phylogeneti-
tefacts. However, in most of the GM studies applied to Archaeology, cally), and as such, it is important to be clear about how the term is
the proposed homologies are either not given much attention or being used in a given case both analytically and theoretically.
always considered true, and therefore, not feasible to be tested
(Barrientos, 2010). The consequence is that homology on stone
2.2. Modularity and morphological integration in archaeological
artefacts is essentially based on the similarity criterion (Barrientos,
Likewise, Shott and Trail (2010) also raised awareness as to the
Sizes and shapes of different parts of organisms are coordinated
implications of landmark types for Archaeology. In order to avoid
to make up a functional whole. The concept of integration and
the obvious problems of using Bookstein's landmark classification
modularity was of pivotal importance to the beginnings of the
in archaeological materials, the authors include the landmark
study of morphology and development by pioneers like Georges
classification proposed by MacLeod (1999, 2008). Such approach
Cuvier1 and Wilhelm Roux in the 19th century (Mayr, 1959; Raff
can also be found in the works of Lycett and colleagues (Lycett and
and Wolpert, 1996). The present concepts of morphological inte-
Chauhan, 2010; Lycett and von Cramon-Taubadel, 2013). Shott and
gration and modularity were created in the middle of the 20th
Trail (2010) use lithic projectile points to discuss the utility of
century (Olson and Miller, 1999) and integrated with ideas from
landmark definitions. Projectile point tips and base corners, for
other areas, such as Evolutionary Genetics and Developmental
example, can be considered discrete and functionally meaningful
Biology. Analyses of morphological integration and modularity
points, presenting geometric homology (Fig. 2). For the authors, the
have been conducted with GM approaches for over a decade and
use of a few landmarks combined with many semi-landmarks in
both have become central concepts in Evolutionary Biology as well
stone tools that lack distinct haft and blade elements (such as
as GM (Klingenberg, 2013). Morphological integration and modu-
Acheulean bifaces) is also problematic if archaeologists take into
larity are often presented as complementary concepts in the liter-
account discussions regarding semi-landmark conceptual prob-
ature and groups of correlated variables are usually interpreted as
lems (but see Mitteroecker and Gunz, 2009; among other authors,
modules. However, in Evolutionary Biology, morphological inte-
for a different view). Given such problems, Cardillo (2010) defends
gration refers to the decomposition of morphological traits
the study of morphological structures regardless of information on
their homology and that such homology hypothesis can be
addressed through the application of phylogenetic methods. For 1
Although Cuvier considered the organisms parts as so tightly integrated
the author, archaeological artefacts cannot possibly present bio- (indecomposable wholes) that he basically assumed a lack of modularity in most
logical homologies, being the result of standardized cultural cases (Schlosser and Wagner, 2004).

Please cite this article in press as: Okumura, M., Araujo, A.G.M., Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of Geometric
Morphometrics in Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.015
M. Okumura, A.G.M. Araujo / Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10 5

according to their phenotypic covariance structure (meaning, the clearly borrowed from the concept of modularity in Biological
covariation among morphological traits, Klingenberg, 2013). Usu- Sciences (Schlosser and Wagner, 2004). However, the authors
ally such decomposition is compared across adult and/or subadult (Gonz  and Charlin, 2012) propose a more specific inter-
individuals belonging to a single taxon or across many taxa pretation of modularity applied to material culture (in this case, to
(Mitteroecker and Bookstein, 2007) and is interpreted in terms of stone tools), stating that modularization might be economically
developmental and evolutionary constraints (Cheverud, 1984; advantageous because it simplifies the design, the making, and the
Futuyma, 2010; Klingenberg, 2008, 2013). The interactions that maintenance of stone tools (Bleed, 1986; Krohs, 2009). In fact, the
constitute the mechanisms responsible for morphological integra- modular design is one of the key characteristics of maintainable
tion cannot usually be directly observable, but the underlying systems, according to Bleed (1986), when discussing the design of
mechanisms can be inferred from the covariation of morphometric hunting weapons. The way modular systems can evolve in artefacts
measurements and hypotheses about their effects can be tested is presented using the same hypotheses of modularity in biological
(Klingenberg, 2013). Modularity is a property of complex structures systems: by the division of a highly integrated system or by the
or processes that are either experimentally or conceptually sepa- integration of different systems (Wagner and Altenberg, 1996). The
rable into several “near-decomposable” modules (Simon, 1962). authors propose that modularity in most non composite lithic
Modules are complexes of parts that are closely integrated inter- points are cases of specialization of previously established struc-
nally, but are relatively independent of other complexes tures (the initial core). They test the hypothesis that such points can
(Klingenberg, 2008, 2013). Such modules usually reflect develop- be considered as a two-module system formed by the blade and the
mental, functional, or evolutionary processes. Therefore, modu- stem (usually considered as techno-functional units), and they aim
larity can be characterized as a property of processes, while to evaluate the degree in which shape, size, asymmetry, blade:stem
morphological integration is a particular pattern of variation and length ratio, and tip angle might explain the observed variance and
covariation among parts that these processes brought about differentiation among points supposedly aimed to accomplish
(Mitteroecker and Bookstein, 2007). In any case, modularity is a different functions. Results point out that, in the analysed sample,
concept that is closely related to morphological integration the blade and the stem can be considered as modular structures
(Klingenberg, 2008). when the effects of reduction are included. However, resharpened
GM offers a variety of methods to address a wide range of hy- points tend to present a modular pattern in terms of tip/rest of the
potheses concerning modularity (Klingenberg, 2013), which can be point. Another interesting result is that the three studied types
related to anatomical, developmental, functional or genetic ques- (arrows, thrown spears, and hand-held tools) show different
tions. Such hypotheses are defined in terms of the landmarks that modular organization. In other words, shape, size, asymmetry,
belong to the hypothesized modules. The relative positions of blade:stem length ratio, and tip angle can be important elements to
landmarks from the same module should be relatively constant, infer the function of these lithic artefacts (Gonz  and
showing a high integration. On the other hand, if the landmarks are Charlin, 2012). The implications of such findings are that the
divided into subsets that do not coincide with the putative mod- modular behaviour observed on the blade and on the stem would
ules, the high covariation observed within each module contributes be expected when functional demands are greater than design
to the covariation among subsets of landmarks, making the general demands. Another important implication is that a modular
covariation among subsets stronger (Klingenberg, 2013). This behaviour would greatly decrease the costs of experimenting with
pattern of covariation can be tested in empirical terms, through the new designs, making it possible to modify parts of a system without
quantification of covariation among the groups of landmarks from changing it completely.
different postulated modules and the comparison between such
covariation and the covariation among subsets of landmarks that 2.3. Allometry as an integrating morphological factor
have been divided in different ways (Klingenberg, 2009).
The idea of modularity has always played an important role in In GM, the form of an object is described as size plus shape.
disciplines like art, engineering, architecture, computer science and These two elements are defined relative to each other: shape is
social sciences including evolutionary psychology (Cosmides and defined as all the geometric information that remains when loca-
Tooby, 1992). For each discipline, specific operational criteria of tion, scale and rotational effects are filtered out from an object
what is a module have been (or should have been) devised (Bookstein, 1998). Size is often equivalent to “centroid size” which
(Mitteroecker and Bookstein, 2007). In Archaeology, the concept of is the square root of the sum of the squared distances from all the
modularity in GM has not been extensively explored. Cardillo landmarks to the centre of the form (the centroid). Centroid size is a
(2010) discusses very briefly the possibility of dividing the projec- measure of size that is mathematically independent of shape
tile point morphology into a set of modules based on morphological (Zelditch et al., 2004: 13), and it is not equivalent to any distance
or technological criteria. In this case, correlation patterns between between landmarks (Bookstein, 1991: 95). Most importantly, size
modules (for example, between the blade and the neck or base of a and shape can be separated in mathematical terms (Darroch and
projectile point) could be related to functional integration of Mosimann, 1985) and its relationship can be further explored
different sections of artefacts. Very few authors have further (Klingenberg, 2013). Allometry is defined as the relationship be-
developed the concept of modularity in GM studies applied to tween size and shape and it can be a key factor to understand
material culture (Charlin and Gonza lez-Jose
, 2012; de Azevedo morphological integration (Klingenberg, 2009; Klingenberg et al.,
et al., 2014; Gonza lez-Jose
 and Charlin, 2012). These authors use 2001; Mitteroecker and Bookstein, 2007). There are different
the borrowed concept of modularity in GM from Biological Sciences levels of allometry: static, ontogenetic, and evolutionary allometry
and discuss how that can be applied to further understand function (Cheverud, 1982; Cock, 1966; Gould, 1966; Klingenberg and
in prehistoric lithic points from southern Patagonia used by Zimmermann, 1992; Klingenberg, 1996, 1998) and such levels are
different systems (arrows, thrown spears, and hand-held points), defined by the process that produces the size variation involved in
when points are considered to present two modules (blade and the allometric effects: individual variation within populations at a
stem). Modules were defined in terms of internal relations/ given ontogenetic stage for static allometry, growth for ontogenetic
dependent elements (like size and shape characteristics of the stem allometry, evolutionary change of size for evolutionary allometry
or blade), as well as external relations/independent elements (the (Klingenberg, 2013).
blade in relation to the rest of the point); such definitions are Given that the relationship between size and shape is often

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Morphometrics in Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.015
6 M. Okumura, A.G.M. Araujo / Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10

linear or nearly linear, allometry results in shape variation that is

mainly directed towards one direction in shape space. The combi-
nation between great size variation and strong allometry, will
imply that most of shape variation will be composed by such size-
related component of shape variation. Strong allometry (when
compared to other sources of variation) will result in a great inte-
gration of shape variation, potentially affecting the analysis of
integration and modularity (Klingenberg, 2009, 2013). Because
allometry can affect many parts of a structure or organism together,
it will result in a combined change of the whole configuration of
given landmarks (Klingenberg, 2013).
In GM applied to the same type of archaeological artefact, usu-
ally the greater source of variation among individuals will be a
consequence of size differences (Lycett, 2009c). The removal of
artefact size is a usual technique among GM studies in Archaeology,
which ensures that differences among artefacts will be based on
shape characteristics rather than general size. That is particularly
important when dealing with stone tools, because the size of a
given raw material (blank form) will limit the size of the finalized
artefact (Chauhan, 2003). According to Lycett (2009c), size removal
Fig. 3. Example of allometric changes related to resharpening in GM analysis applied
allows GM analysis to focus on comparison among artefact shapes. to stemmed bifacial points from southern Brazil.
However, the author stresses that such a removal does not signify
size being treated as irrelevant in order to understand variation
among stone tool morphology, but that it should be analysed and more widely discussed in relation to raw material availability and
clearly defined apart from shape. In fact, it is not uncommon to see reduction intensity (including resharpening practices), but other
the correlation between vectors of size and shape of artefacts being elements including function, cultural tradition, as well as cognitive
referred as allometry by some archaeologists (Andrews et al., 2015; and/or biomechanical differences can also be potentially important
Archer and Braun, 2010; Buchanan, 2006; Okumura and Araujo, factors affecting form variability (Lycett, 2009c) and therefore,
2014). allometry.
Another very promising theme involving allometry and stone
tools is the role of lithic resharpening or rejuvenation practices that 3. Conclusions
prolong the use of lithic artefacts (Dibble, 1984; Shott and Ballenger,
2007). Such practices are closely related to the production, use, The use of GM applied to archaeological material culture has
maintenance and discard (Schiffer, 1972; Shott, 2005) of stone tools. seen a sharp increase in the past decade, yielding interesting results
Resharpening can be defined as a maintenance process, usually regarding morphological variation among samples and generating
observed when the finalized artefact was extensively used, exciting knowledge about how such a variation can be explained in
implying that it was blunt or damaged (Kooyman, 2000:2). terms of function, development or evolution. Given this scenario, it
Resharpening in stone tools usually aims to produce a fresh, sharp would be expected that more researchers adopt GM to further
cutting edge in a dulled tool (Hayden, 1987). Some authors use the explore the morphology of all sorts of material culture. However,
term rejuvenation as the refurbishing of a broken tool into a this response has not been observed. Lycett (2009c, see also Lycett
functionally equivalent tool (Towner and Warburton, 1990). and Chauhan, 2010) discusses why there were so few archaeolo-
Therefore, resharpening and rejuvenation of stone tools can gists working with GM (as well as other quantitative methods)
potentially modify their dimensions, including length, width and applied to lithic artefacts. The author offers three possible expla-
thickness (Hoffman, 1985). Such a reduction in size related to such nations for that: lack of quantitative and statistical training, the
practices lead some authors to propose the concept of stone tool requirement of expensive digital equipment, and the difficulties of
ageing or senescence (Lycett, 2010; Shott, 2010). Different types of using such instruments in archaeological field conditions. Other
stone tools, including scrapers (Andrews et al., 2015; Dibble, 1984), less practical explanations include researchers feeling suspicious
handaxes (Archer and Braun, 2010; Iovita and McPherron, 2011; about the “reality” of quantitative methods, as well as the idea that
McPherron and Dibble, 1999), and projectile points (Buchanan, the only feasible way of properly analysing an artefact has to
2006; Buchanan and Collard, 2010b; Charlin and Gonz ,
alez-Jose include information on technology. Specifically regarding GM
2012; de Azevedo et al., 2014; Flenniken and Raymond, 1986; applied to Archaeology, there is the possibility that some archae-
Gonz alez-Jose and Charlin, 2012; Okumura and Araujo, 2014; ologists do not feel completely comfortable borrowing a method
Shott et al., 2007) can be modified through resharpening and from Biology, given the (mostly) not explicit assumptions that such
rejuvenation practices. In the case of lithic stemmed projectile borrowing implies. That includes the potentially strong relation
points, the blade will be the region that presents the greater po- between the adopted method (GM) and a given theory (Evolu-
tential to be modified by resharpening or rejuvenation in com- tionary Archaeology). Although such a relation is not mandatory, it
parison to the stem (Fig. 3, Charlin and Gonza lez-Jose, 2012). is quite obvious that the common agenda shared by Evolutionary
Similarly, in non-stemmed projectile points, bases are rarely Archaeology and Evolutionary Biology would facilitate the
resharpened (Ahler and Geib, 2000; Musil, 1988). For example, for borrowing of GM from the latter to the former discipline.
some authors, the great variation observed in North American Another interesting observation is that the majority of GM
Clovis points might be related to resharpening or rejuvenation analysis in Archaeology has been focused on stone tools, mainly
practices (Hofman and Graham, 1998; Titmus and Woods, 1991, but projectile points (see Lycett and Chauhan, 2010 for a discussion
see Buchanan et al., 2014, 2015 for a different view). Given the about the lack of easily defined points of homology on most stone
reductive nature of such processes, decrease in size is a by-product artefact forms). There can be some explanations for this bias,
that can result in strong allometry (Cardillo, 2010). Allometry is including particularities in the morphology of such artefacts (for

Please cite this article in press as: Okumura, M., Araujo, A.G.M., Archaeology, biology, and borrowing: A critical examination of Geometric
Morphometrics in Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.09.015
M. Okumura, A.G.M. Araujo / Journal of Archaeological Science xxx (2018) 1e10 7

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to both increase their awareness about the proper adjustments that and adaptation using cladistics. In: O'Brien, M.J. (Ed.), Cultural Transmission and
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Acknowledgements Buchanan, B., Collard, M., 2010b. An assessment of the impact of resharpening on
Paleoindian projectile point blade shape using geometric morphometric tech-
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The authors would like to thank Thilo Rehren, Christian Hog-
Analytical Approaches to Paleolithic Technologies. Springer, New York,
gard, and Sarah Stark for the assistance with the publication of this pp. 255e273.
article. We also would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers Buchanan, B., Johnson, E., Strauss, R.E., Lewis, P.J., 2007. A morphometric approach
for their insightful comments on the manuscript. Rolando to assessing late Paleoindian projectile point variability on the Southern High
Plains. Plains Anthropol. 52, 279e299.
Gonz  and Judith Charlin kindly allowed us to use an
alez-Jose Buchanan, B., O'Brien, M.J., Collard, M., 2014. Continent-wide or region-specific? A
adapted version of a figure from their work. This research was geometric morphometrics-based assessment of variation in Clovis point shape.
financially supported by British Academy/Newton Mobility Grant Archaeol. Anthropol. Sci. 6, 145e162.
Buchanan, B., Eren, M.I., Boulanger, M.T., O'Brien, M.J., 2015. Size, shape, scars, and
Scheme 2014 (MO, NG140077), the Brazilian National Council for spatial patterning: a quantitative assessment of late Pleistocene (Clovis) point
Scientific and Technological Development (MO, CNPq 303566/ resharpening. J. Archaeol. Sci. Rep. 3, 11e21.
2014-0, 443169/2014-9, 443242/2015-1), and the Sabbatical Pro- Byers, D.A., Ugan, A., 2005. Should we expect large game specialization in the late
Pleistocene? An optimal foraging perspective on early Paleoindian prey choice.
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