The effect of numerical aperture on quantitative use-wear studies and its implication on reproducibility


Use-wear studies rely heavily on experiments and reference collections to infer the function of archeological artifacts. Sequential experiments, in particular, are necessary to understand how use-wear develops. Consequently, it is crucial to analyze the same location on the tool’s surface during the course of an experiment. Being able to relocate the area of interest on a sample is also essential for reproducibility in use-wear studies. However, visual relocation has limited applicability and there is currently no easy and efficient alternative. Here we propose a simple protocol to create a coordinate system directly on the sample. Three ceramic beads that serve as reference markers are adhered onto the sample, either with epoxy resin or acrylic polymer. The former is easier to work with but the latter is reversible so it can be applied to archeological samples too. The microscope’s software then relocates the position(s) of interest.We demonstrate the feasibility of this approach and measure its repeatability by imaging the same position on an experimental flint blade 10 times with two confocal microscopes. Our results show that the position can be relocated automatically with a horizontal positional repeatability of approximately 14% of the field of view. Quantitative surface texture measurements according to ISO 25178 vary due to this positional inaccuracy, but it is still unknown whether this variation would mask functional differences. Although still perfectible, we argue that this protocol represents an important step toward repeatability and reproducibility in experimental archeology, especially in use-wear studies.

Nature, Scientific Reports, 9 (2019)
João Marreiros
João Marreiros

My research interests include Pleistocene stone tools, traceology, digital archaeology and experimental archaeology