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Burning questions about preservation: an investigation of cremated bone crystallinity in a Bronze Age cemetery

Author(s): Emily Quarato ; Julia Giblin

Year: 2017

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The elemental and isotopic analysis of human skeletal remains has greatly added to our understanding of diet, mobility, and social variability in prehistoric societies. For studies of this nature, it is critical to evaluate the preservation of the skeletal material prior to analysis to make sure that taphonomic processes have not affected the original chemical signatures. Calcined bone (usually produced from cremation burial practices) is generally avoided for chemical analysis due to heat induced chemical changes (e.g., isotope fractionation) and the porous structural properties of bone (as compared to tooth enamel). Recent work indicates that calcined bone may in fact retain "in vivo" chemical signatures for radiogenic isotopes due to increases in crystallinity that makes it more resistant to post-depositional diagenesis than unburned bone and teeth. In this study, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), is used to evaluate the crystallinity of cremated bone from a series of burials from the Békés 103 site, a Bronze Age cemetery from Eastern Hungary. This technique is used to investigate the crystalline and chemical structure of calcined and non-calcined bones within the cemetery. Our study will be used to determine which specimens could potentially be analyzed for strontium isotope composition in future work.

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Burning questions about preservation: an investigation of cremated bone crystallinity in a Bronze Age cemetery. Emily Quarato, Julia Giblin. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431997)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16835

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America