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Anthropology Application Brief

UCSB

Affiliation


Department of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara

Description


Using high resolution surface mapping techniques, Dr. Philip Walker and Ed Hagen of the Department of Anthropology at UCSB are attempting to develop a new topographical approach to dental microwear analysis.

Location


Santa Barbara, CA

Microtopography Analysis

The Problem


Recent anthropological research suggests that the study of dental microwear, the pits and scratches formed on a tooth surface through use, may go a long way to helping scientists reconstruct the diets of extinct mammals, including our early hominid ancestors. A major difficulty in developing analysis methods for dental microwear has been determining the three-dimensional topography of microwear surfaces from two-dimensional, scanning electron microscope images.

Subjective Visual Identification


Furthermore, the current practice of identifying microwear details visually is an extremely time-consuming and subjective process. Because this quantitative analysis is so labor intensive, little is known about the extent of variation on different surfaces of the same tooth, let alone among members of a single species.