Wednesday, September 26, 2012
New Tool for CSI? Geographic Software Maps Distinctive Features Inside Bones
A common type of geographic mapping software offers a new way to study human remains.
In a recent issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers describe how they used commercially available mapping software to identify features inside a human foot bone – a new way to study human skeletal variation.
David Rose, a Captain in the Ohio State University Police Division and doctoral student in anthropology, began the project to determine whether the patterns of change inside the bones of human remains could reveal how the bones were used during life.
“Our bones adapt to the load that’s placed on them. Patterns of tension and compression show up in our internal bone structure, and this software lets us look at those patterns in a new way,” Rose said.
Julie Field, study co-author and assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State, explained that archaeologists frequently use geographic information system (GIS) software to map the location of objects uncovered at an excavation site.
“We try to identify important clusters of objects such as household tools or agricultural tools that would indicate patterns of human activity,” Field explained. “Based on certain scientific criteria that you give it, the software gives you a statistical measure of whether the objects you’re looking at actually constitute a cluster.”
In this case, the researchers used a program called ArcGIS. But similar types of mapping software can analyze any kind of spatial data, such as crime statistics or flood models, Rose added. He usesthe same program to map line-of-site views to develop security plans for events on campus.