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Publication Detail
Use of micro-computed tomography imaging and porosity measurements as indicators of collagen preservation in archaeological bone
Abstract
© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Collagen isolated from archaeological bone is a common material for radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, and zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS). However, not all bones contain extant collagen, leading to unnecessary destruction of unproductive bones and wasted laboratory time and resources. An aim of this research is to study bone diagenesis, particularly collagen destruction, in an effort to develop a minimally destructive method for identifying bones with high collagen content. In a multi-method study of variably preserved bones from Etton, Cambridgeshire, UK, we examined material properties of Neolithic cattle and sheep bones including porosity, surface area, and elemental composition. Micro-computed tomography (microCT) is an imaging technique that furnishes three-dimensional images of mineralized materials such as bone. Cortical bone porosity, the percentage of total bone volume consisting of empty space as calculated using microCT, can act as a proxy for bone collagen preservation. In general, bones with high cortical porosity are unlikely to contain sufficient collagen for further analysis. Bones with apparently low cortical porosity have a more varied range of collagen preservation. Bone samples with low porosity and no extant collagen often contain micropores with a diameter of 10 nm or less that cannot be seen in microCT images but are apparent in pore size distributions measured by mercury porosimetry, and indicated by high surface areas measured by nitrogen adsorption. Furthermore, a re-evaluation of light-induced breakdown spectroscopy data from this same assemblage confirms that ratios of calcium to fluorine may likewise indicate the state of diagenesis.
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