Trace element distribution in human cortical bone microstructure: the potential for unravelling diet and social status in archaeological bones

Kaare Lund Rasmussen*, George R. Milner, Thomas Delbey, Lilian Skytte, Niels Lynnerup, Jørgen Lange Thomsen, Simone Schiavone, Marielva Torino, Lars Agersnap Larsen, Jesper Lier Boldsen

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Abstrakt

Variation in the trace element chemistry of cortical bone microstructure is delineated for interred and non-interred human femora. This was done to investigate the range of element concentrations that might occur within single bones, specifically the original laminar bone and later osteons, and its potential for investigating chemical life histories. To do so, femora were chosen from individuals who experienced quite different ways of life over the past two millennia. The distributions of Sr, Ba, Cu, and Pb, mostly in partial (early) and complete (late) osteons, in cross-sections of proximal femora were characterized through Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. Absolute calibrations of these data were obtained using solution Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry on adjacent dissolved bulk samples. Chemical life histories were approximated by classifying bone microstructure into four categories: laminar bone and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation osteons. This four-part sequence, on average, charts the temporal dimension of an individual’s life. Consistent with recent studies of medieval bones, Sr and Ba are thought to be mainly responsive to diet, presumably related to the consumption of mostly locally produced food, while Cu and Pb do the same for heavy metal exposure often attributable to social status or occupation. No systematic differences in these elements were found between interred and non-interred individuals. The effect of diagenesis on interpretations of life histories based on archaeological bone, therefore, are minimized by plotting element concentrations across cortical bone cross-sections.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
Artikelnummer111
TidsskriftHeritage Science
Vol/bind8
Antal sider23
ISSN2050-7445
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 7. nov. 2020

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