Virtual skeletons and digital muscles: an experimental bioarchaeological approach to the pre-Hispanic production of millstones (Tenerife, Canary Islands)




open-access software, virtual archaeology, biomechanics, experimental archaeology, indigenous people


Understanding the physical impact of ancient labours has become an important experimental bioarchaeology area. Complex motion capture systems and digital tools have been used in biomechanical analysis during the reproduction of manual tasks. However, these systems are costly, so the researchers have explored alternative digital solutions. Therefore, the open-access Kinovea software was checked to confirm its reliability in characterizing the physical loads associated with particular works of ancient times. In this case study, the authors have analyzed the central postural angles and muscle chains involved in the indigenous manufacturing process of rotary stone mills, in the high mountains of Tenerife. The study included a virtual motion capture analysis carried out during the different phases of the experimental reproduction of this process; it was defined from the archaeological record of the quarries-workshops of Las Cañadas del Teide National Park (Canary Islands, Spain) volcanic millstones. The results of this study have demonstrated the software's effectiveness to virtually analyze the significant differences in posture between work techniques, observing a predominance of the use of m. biceps brachii, the m. brachioradialis, and the elbow joint during the manufacture of stone mills. On the other hand, Kinovea also has excellent potential in virtual archaeology, giving users tools to generate the average postural angles. As a result, building "virtual skeletons" in more precise work postures has been possible. This may serve as the base element to create complete body representations in virtual environments.


  • The combination of biomechanical analysis and open-access Kinovea software enables the study of musculoskeletal and articular wear of experimentally reproduced tasks.
  • The repeated use of the right arm during indirect percussion and abrasion in lithic production could increase the changes in bone robusticity of specific muscle attachments observed in the osteoarchaeological record.
  • Motion ranges and postural angles analysis can generate more accurate representations of "virtual humans" in their archaeological context.


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Author Biographies

Jared Carballo-Pérez, Universidad de La Laguna

Jared Carballo-Pérez is a predoctoral researcher contracted in the Area of Prehistory of the Department of Geography and History of the University of La Laguna. His research combines Archaeology, Biomechanics, and Physical Anthropology to analyze the physical activity patterns of past populations. He has specialized in applying software to analyze movements during experimental works in this field. This type of study has the potential to identify the muscle chains and joints most used in archaeologically identified tasks, which has an extraordinary application in the study of bone remains from archaeological contexts, as well as in the representation of virtual humans.

Norberto Marrero-Gordillo, Universidad de La Laguna

Norberto Marrero-Gordillo is a professor in the Human Anatomy and Embryology Area of the Department of Basic Medical Sciences. Among several lines of research, he has specialized in anthropometric studies related to Sports Sciences, which has been very useful when applying motion analysis software to Experimental Archeology and Ethnoarchaeology works.

Alberto Lacave-Hernández, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Alberto Lacave-Hernández is a contracted predoctoral researcher (FPI) in the Prehistory Area of the Department of Historical Sciences. His line of research is dedicated to the technological study of the lithic industry used by the indigenous populations of the Canary Islands. In this sense, he has specialized in applying experimental work to identify the different phases of the manufacturing process of stone tools, such as rotary millstones.

Matilde Arnay-de-la-Rosa, Universidad de La Laguna

Matilde Arnay-de-la-Rosa is a professor in the Prehistory Area of the Department of Geography and History. Among her multiple lines of research, she has dedicated herself to investigating the different modes of occupation, production, and communication in the indigenous past of the high mountains of Tenerife, as well as in the heritage management models of the Las Cañadas del Teide National Park. Her specialization covers the study of the human remains of indigenous people buried in high mountain caves and the archaeological survey of the production of rotary mills in these contexts.


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How to Cite

Carballo-Pérez, J., Marrero-Gordillo, N., Lacave-Hernández, A., & Arnay-de-la-Rosa, M. (2022). Virtual skeletons and digital muscles: an experimental bioarchaeological approach to the pre-Hispanic production of millstones (Tenerife, Canary Islands). Virtual Archaeology Review, 14(28), 19–37.