Diagenesis of archaeological bone and tooth

Christopher Kendall, Anne Marie Høier Eriksen*, Ioannis Kontopoulos, Matthew J. Collins, Gordon Turner-Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


An understanding of the structural complexity of mineralised tissues is fundamental for exploration into the field of diagenesis. Here we review aspects of current and past research on bone and tooth diagenesis using the most comprehensive collection of literature on diagenesis to date. Environmental factors such as soil pH, soil hydrology and ambient temperature, which influence the preservation of skeletal tissues are assessed, while the different diagenetic pathways such as microbial degradation, loss of organics, mineral changes, and DNA degradation are surveyed. Fluctuating water levels in and around the bone is the most harmful for preservation and lead to rapid skeletal destruction. Diagenetic mechanisms are found to work in conjunction with each other, altering the biogenic composition of skeletal material. This illustrates that researchers must examine multiple diagenetic pathways to fully understand the post-mortem interactions of archaeological skeletal material and the burial environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalPalaeogeography palaeoclimatology palaeoecology
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Ancient DNA
  • Bioerosion
  • Bone diagenesis
  • Collagen
  • Environment
  • Hydroxyapatite

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