Bone diagenesis and dietary analysis

Joseph B. Lambert, Sharon Vlasak, Simpson, Carole B. Szpunar, Jane E. Buikstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Alteration of buried bone through natural diagenesis can vitiate any analysis of ancient diet based on concentrations of inorganic elements. Consequently, several methods have been developed to assess the presence and extent of diagenetic effects. These include comparison of modern with excavated bone, comparison of different skeletal components such as rib with femur, examination of elemental content as a function of the age of the individual at death, elemental distribution across the bone cross section, analysis opf archeological soils, comparison of herbivores and carnivores, and analysis of isotope ratios. Strontium and zinc appear to be the least sensitive elements to diagenesis. Calcium and sodium may be lost through leaching but may still be useful in the dietary context. Magnesium and lead give mixed results by these tests and might be useful under certain circumstances. Iron, manganese, aluminium, potassium, copper, barium, vanadium, and uranium are particularly sensitive to diagnetic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-482
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of human evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • Woodland sites
  • ancient diet
  • diagenesis
  • heteroionic exchange
  • isotope effects
  • soil analysis
  • strontium
  • zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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