Taking the measure of a mark: Exploratory size and shape analysis of cut marks

Eileen Johnson, Patrick J. Lewis, Leland C. Bement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A database of 128 measured incised butchery marks (i.e., the classic cut mark) was the basis for exploratory statistical tests of length and width measurements from late Pleistocene mammoth localities and an early Holocene bison locality The tests reveal several trends. The initial approach uses univariate descriptive statistics, regression, and ANOVA to examine differences in size and shape of marks. Significant differences are noted in length and width of marks based on location element, and type. Length and width variables demonstrate low variability within incised marks. Results demonstrate a consistency in incised marks across the two taxa. Other consistencies are noted that indicate a regular or standardized way of producing marks in particular places on bones and on particular elements. Location or placement of marks appears to influence mark length, and in general, mark width is constrained. Mark orientation can at times influence mark length. Shape of mark ends may be related to the type of tool and size of tool bit. Using a morphomctric approach (size and shape) removes some of the subjectivity in evaluating marks on a visual basis. While exploratory in nature, this morphometric approach crosscuts time and space boundaries and should be applicable to any bone assemblage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-79
Number of pages21
JournalGreat Plains Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Bison
  • Butchery
  • Cut marks
  • Mammoth
  • Morphometries
  • Taphonomy


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