Variability of bone preservation in a confined environment: the case of the catacomb of Sts Peter and Marcellinus (Rome, Italy)

Salesse, K, Dufour, E., Lebon, M., Wurster, C., Castex, D., Bruzek, J., and Zazzo, A. (2014) Variability of bone preservation in a confined environment: the case of the catacomb of Sts Peter and Marcellinus (Rome, Italy). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 416. 43 - 54.

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Abstract

Most of the studies investigating the diagenetic trajectory of fossil bones focus on open-air sites and very little work have been published in confined environments such as catacombs. While the stable thermal history of catacombs should favor bone preservation, the accumulation of corpses over a short period of time could favor their destruction. The aim of this study is to describe the diagenetic trajectory of 128 human bone samples coming from six different burial chambers of the catacomb of Sts Peter and Marcellinus (SSPM, Rome, Italy). A multi-proxy approach was undertaken to provide an assessment of the molecular preservation as well as a direct record of the isotopic composition itself. Collagen yield, carbon and nitrogen abundances, C:N ratio, FT-IR based collagen and carbonate contents and crystallinity index, radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis of bone collagen and carbonate indicate that both the mineral and the organic fractions are impacted by diagenesis to various degrees, and that bones originating from the small burial chambers are more affected than those coming from the large ones. While some of the bones were strongly recrystallized, the impact of bone diagenesis on the stable isotope values of bone carbonate was limited. Comparison with contemporary sites from the Latium showed that conditions prevailing in catacombs seem overall to favor, rather than disadvantage bone preservation.

Item ID: 36267
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-616X
Keywords: diagenesis, stable isotopes, collaged, apatite, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy
Additional Information:

The issue of Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology Bone and enamel diagenesis: From the crystal to the environment is dedicated to Jean-François Saliège

Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2015 01:41
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210102 Archaeological Science @ 70%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0402 Geochemistry > 040203 Isotope Geochemistry @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 60%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 40%
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