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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Andrew R Millard

Millard, AR (2001). Deterioration of bone. In Handbook of Archaeological Sciences. Brothwell, D & Pollard, M Chichester: Wiley. 633-643.

Author(s) from Durham


Bone is popularly regarded as a dry, inanimate, uncomplicated and robust material. In fact, it is a complex biological material which can undergo a variety of pre-depositional and post-depositional processes, causing physical and chemical changes which can both destroy and add to archaeological information potential. These taphonomic processes can also lead to bone being unstable when removed from the ground, or even unstable in the face of changing environmental conditions. Together these factors mean that a full understanding of bone deterioration requires an understanding of bone structure and chemistry, possible pre-depositional physical and chemical changes, and interactions with the geochemistry of the burial environment.