TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR OBSERVING, DOCUMENTING AND INTERPRETING BITE MARKS
Actualistic experiments have attempted to constrain mark morphology against known taphonomic controls. These have been met with limited success and most conclusions are still accompanied by much uncertainty. Nevertheless, important strides have been made in defining both individual mark morphology and overall bone surface modification patterns. The contemporary view is that a wholistic evaluation of the entire assemblage is needed to clarify the interactions represented at a specific site.
Here we examine a sample of predator modified bones obtained from the controlled feeding of Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). Using a variety of measurement techniques, we assess whether certain aspects of mark morphology can be related unambiguously to tooth morphology.
These include a comparison of macro-, meso-, micro- and ultramicroscopic measurements of the bone surface. Marks are evaluated as both individual taphonomic traces and with respect to gross bite mark patterning across the skeleton. Moreover, we discuss the various limitations of each methodology to determine the most informative, efficient and cost-effective method of viewing bite marks.
We present various recommendations for extrapolating information from marks based on internal morphology and deformation properties. Additionally, we discuss issues arising among different samples and the efficacy of viewing cast material. It is our hope that with continued experimentation and reflection, a clearer method of bite mark description and identification can be developed.