Anthropology Application Brief
Department of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara
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.
Santa Barbara, CA
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.