Technical note: Morphometric maps of long bone shafts and dental roots for imaging topographic thickness variation

Luca Bondioli, Priscilla Bayle, Christopher Dean, Arnaud Mazurier, Laurent Puymerail, Christopher Ruff, Jay T. Stock, Virginie Volpato, Clément Zanolli, Roberto Macchiarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Qualitative and quantitative characterization through functional imaging of mineralized tissues is of potential value in the study of the odontoskeletal remains. This technique, widely developed in the medical field, allows the bi-dimensional, planar representation of some local morphometric properties, i.e., topographic thickness variation, of a three-dimensional object, such as a long bone shaft. Nonetheless, the use of morphometric maps is still limited in (paleo)anthropology, and their feasibility has not been adequately tested on fossil specimens. Using high-resolution microtomographic images, here we apply bi-dimensional virtual "unrolling" and synthetic thickness mapping techniques to compare cortical bone topographic variation across the shaft in a modern and a fossil human adult femur (the Magdalenian from Chancelade). We also test, for the first time, the possibility to virtually unroll and assess for dentine thickness variation in modern and fossil (the Neanderthal child from Roc de Marsal) human deciduous tooth roots. The analyses demonstrate the feasibility of using two-dimensional morphometric maps for the synthetic functional imaging and comparative biomechanical interpretation of cortical bone thickness variation in extant and fossil specimens and show the interest of using this technique also for the subtle characterization of root architecture and dentine topography. More specifically, our preliminary results support the use of virtual cartography as a tool for assessing to what extent internal root morphology is capable of responding to loading and directional stresses and strains in a predictable way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-334
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010


  • Cortical bone
  • Microtomography
  • Morphometric maps
  • Root dentine
  • Thickness variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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