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Three-dimensional surface models of hand bones (individual 15-06)

Cite this dataset

Karakostis, Fotios Alexandros et al. (2020). Three-dimensional surface models of hand bones (individual 15-06) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Objectives: Cuncaicha, a rockshelter site in the southern Peruvian Andes, has yielded archaeological evidence for human occupation at high elevation (4480 masl) during the Terminal Pleistocene (12,500 to 11,200 cal BP), Early Holocene (9500-9000 cal BP), and later periods. One of the excavated human burials (Feature 15-06), corresponding to a middle-aged female dated to ~8500 cal BP, exhibits skeletal osteoarthritic lesions previously proposed to reflect habitual loading and specialized crafting labor. Three small tools found in association with this burial are hypothesized to be associated with precise manual dexterity.

Materials and Methods: Here, we tested this functional hypothesis through the application of a novel multivariate methodology for the three-dimensional analysis of muscle attachment surfaces (entheses). This original approach has been recently validated on both lifelong-documented anthropological samples as well as experimental studies in non-human laboratory samples. Additionally, we analyzed the three-dimensional entheseal shape and resulting moment arms for muscle opponens pollicis.

Results: Results show that Cuncaicha individual 15-06 shows a distinctive entheseal pattern associated with habitual precision grasping via thumb-index finger coordination, which is shared exclusively with documented long-term precision workers from recent historical collections. The separate geometric morphometric analysis revealed that the individual’s opponens pollicis enthesis presents a highly projecting morphology, which was found to strongly correlate with long joint moment arms (a fundamental component of force-producing capacity), closely resembling the form of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers from diverse geo-chronological contexts of Eurasia and North Africa.

Discussion: Overall, our findings provide the first bio-cultural evidence to confirm that the lifestyle of some of the earliest Andean inhabitants relied on habitual and forceful precision grasping tasks.


Three-dimensional surface models were developed using a Breuckmann Smartscan scanner (Hexagon Inc.).

Usage notes

For calculating entheseal 3D form (size and shape) and performing multivariate analyses using different entheses, please refer to the detailed information of the manuscript itself.


Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: DFG FOR 2237

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Northern Illinois University

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History