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Diagenesis of archaeological bone and tooth

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


Publication details

JournalPalaeogeography palaeoclimatology palaeoecology
DateAccepted/In press - 16 Nov 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Feb 2018
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)21-37
Early online date20/11/17
Original languageEnglish


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.

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

    Research areas

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

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