Objectifying processes: The use of geometric morphometrics and multivariate analyses on Acheulean tools
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Nowadays, the fruitful discussion regarding the morphological variability of handaxes during the Middle Pleistocene has reached a decisive moment with the use of more accurate statistical methods, such as geometric morphometrics (GM) and multivariate analyses (MA). This paper presents a preliminary methodological approach for checking the utility of these new approaches on the analysis of the tools‟ shape. It goes beyond the simple description of morphology and isolates the variables which define the final morphology of a tool. We compared two Middle Pleistocene sites, Boxgrove and Swanscombe, which are morphologically very different. Then, we applied the GM analysis on 1) 2D images, with two semi-landmark distributions: 28 semi-landmarks, specially concentrated on the tip and butt, and 60 equally spaced points; and 2) on 3D models using a new software (AGMT3-D Software) including 5000 semi-landmarks. The more points used to define the tool‟s outline, the more accurate will be the interpretation of the variables affecting shape. On the other hand, if the semi-landmarks are localized on specific sectors of the tool, a bias is created, by concentrating on those sectors, rather than the general tool shape. The 3D models offer a new dimension on the shape analysis, as their results mean the combination of plan-shape, profile-shape and the tool‟s topography.