The strange case of Apigliano: early ‘fossilization’ of medieval bone in southern Italy



The preservation of the osteological material at the medieval site of Apigliano, in southern Italy, is characterized by bones with highly crystalline, and altered, mineral phases. In addition to this, some material retains perfect histological preservation, with the exception of small microfissures present throughout this structure. Diagenetic porosity is indicative of collagen loss via chemical degradation. The levels of residual collagen in these bones are much lower than is predicted from simple models of gelatinization, and thus a more complex explanation for the state of preservation must be sought. Possible explanations for the rapid loss of bone collagen are considered, including a high–temperature event, the acceleration of hydrolysis due to liming and extreme wetting and drying cycles.