An elemental analysis of archaeological bone from Sicily as a test of predictability of diagenetic change

Authors

  • Linda L. Klepinger,

    1. Departments of Anthropology and Anatomical Sciences, Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials, ATAM, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801
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  • John K. Kuhn,

    1. Institute for Mining and Minerals Research, Kentucky Center for Energy Research Laboratory, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40583
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  • Wendell S. Williams

    1. Departments of Physics and Ceramic Engineering, Program on Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials, ATAM, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801
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Abstract

Corticalhuman bone samples from three tightly dated components of a single Sicilian sitewere chemically analyzed employing the highly sensitive technique of inductivelycoupled plasma emission spectroscopy. Although the skeletons appeared to beexcellently preserved, significant diage-nesis was detected. Moreover, amajority of the elements tested showed no constant or linear variation overtime, implying that diagenetic change tends not to be a predictable function of duration of interment. Variation among major long bones of a single skeleton wasquite high, as was variation across the cortex. The latter may reflect chemicalinhomogeneity in bone tissue or may be an artifact of postmortem change. Theresults demonstrate the hazards of unsuspected and unpredictable diagenesis, which must be controlled before reliable dietary inferences can be drawn.

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