Investigating responses of archaeological bone to post-retrieval environment

Brooks, H. W. and Goodman, A. M. and Colston, B. J. (2010) Investigating responses of archaeological bone to post-retrieval environment. In: ICAZ Animal Palaeopathology Working Group Conference, Katerini, 2010, 9-11 April 2010, Hecabe Centre, Katerini, Greece.

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Abstract

Archaeological bones are an irreplaceable resource, especially with interest in newer molecular study techniques. Whilst burial environments predictably affect mineral and protein contents and physical integrity (“preservation state”) of retrieved bones, effects of post-retrieval environment are not well characterised, and curatorial guidelines are non-specific.

The established Oxford histological Index (OHI) was used with a novel application of a mechanical competence test to link preservation state of archaeological bones to responses to fluctuating relative humidity (RH) in a simulated post-retrieval environment.

Archaeological ovine metapodials were classified as physically “poor”, “medium” and “well” preserved. Resin-embedded thin sections of each bone were examined histologically; neighbouring segments were subjected to low force hardness (Vickers “micro-hardness”) testing. Adjacent segments were then exposed to fluctuating RH in a controlled environment, after which histology and micro-hardness testing were again performed.

Initial preservation states reflected collagen retention, with “best preserved” bones having most collagen. The ability to withstand fluctuating RH was inversely related to collagen-retention, with cracking (gross and micro-) more likely in better preserved bones. Similarly, micro-hardness tended to decrease in better preserved bones after exposure to fluctuating RH; an effect not echoed by poorer preserved bones.
The differing resilience of the bones may relate to hygroscopicity of collagen, also to facilitation of microbiological growth by fluctuating RH in better preserved bones.

This project is part of ongoing investigations into post-retrieval deterioration of archaeological bone and in the longer term aims to aid curators to provide optimal environments for bones in their care.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Additional Information:Archaeological bones are an irreplaceable resource, especially with interest in newer molecular study techniques. Whilst burial environments predictably affect mineral and protein contents and physical integrity (“preservation state”) of retrieved bones, effects of post-retrieval environment are not well characterised, and curatorial guidelines are non-specific. The established Oxford histological Index (OHI) was used with a novel application of a mechanical competence test to link preservation state of archaeological bones to responses to fluctuating relative humidity (RH) in a simulated post-retrieval environment. Archaeological ovine metapodials were classified as physically “poor”, “medium” and “well” preserved. Resin-embedded thin sections of each bone were examined histologically; neighbouring segments were subjected to low force hardness (Vickers “micro-hardness”) testing. Adjacent segments were then exposed to fluctuating RH in a controlled environment, after which histology and micro-hardness testing were again performed. Initial preservation states reflected collagen retention, with “best preserved” bones having most collagen. The ability to withstand fluctuating RH was inversely related to collagen-retention, with cracking (gross and micro-) more likely in better preserved bones. Similarly, micro-hardness tended to decrease in better preserved bones after exposure to fluctuating RH; an effect not echoed by poorer preserved bones. The differing resilience of the bones may relate to hygroscopicity of collagen, also to facilitation of microbiological growth by fluctuating RH in better preserved bones. This project is part of ongoing investigations into post-retrieval deterioration of archaeological bone and in the longer term aims to aid curators to provide optimal environments for bones in their care.
Keywords:archaeological bone, hardness, ovine, degradation, post-retrieval environment
Subjects:F Physical Sciences > F200 Materials Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D900 Others in Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:2727
Deposited By: Adrian Goodman
Deposited On:24 Jun 2010 15:03
Last Modified:13 Apr 2012 15:59

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