The long and winding road: identifying pig domestication through molar size and shape

Allowen Evin*, Thomas Cucchi, Andrea Cardini, Una Strand Vidarsdottir, Greger Larson, Keith Dobney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to document the effects of domestication from archaeological remains of animals and plants is essential for reconstructing the history of one of the most important transitions in human prehistory - the shift from hunting and gathering to farming. In mammals, teeth are well preserved in archaeological remains and are known to be taxonomically informative. In this study, we compare three sets of dental morphometric descriptors in wild and domestic pigs (Sus scrofa) - maximum length, size and shape variables from 2D geometric morphometrics - in order to assess which of the three provides the best ability to correctly distinguish current wild and domestic West Palaearctic pigs. For this purpose, we used predictive linear discriminant analysis with cross-validation taking into account potential bias due to heterogeneous sample sizes and important number of predictors. Classification accuracy of wild and domestic status ranged between 77.3 and 93% depending of the tooth and the descriptor analyzed. However, individual posterior probabilities of correct classification were appreciably smaller when using tooth length and centroid size compared to shape variables. Size appeared to be a poor indicator of wild and domestic status, contrary to shape which in addition provides a high degree of confidence in the wild versus domestic predictions. Our results indicate that geometric morphometrics offers an extremely powerful alternative to more traditional biometric approaches of length and width measurements to capture the elusive morphological changes induced by the domestication process in archaeological remains. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-743
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • geometric morphometrics
  • randomization
  • classification
  • Sus scrofa
  • predictive discriminant analysis
  • teeth
  • zooarchaeology
  • house mouse
  • insights
  • dispersal
  • mammals
  • clues
  • Asia


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