Preservation and degradation of tool marks in burnt bone

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  • Preservation and degradation of tool marks in burnt bone

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Preservation and degradation of tool marks in burnt bone


S5-2, S6-3, General session, poster



An experiment was conducted to examine preservation of a small variety of tool marks in bone burned to varying degrees. Twenty-four specimens from six Sus scrofa forelimbs were cut using three distinct saw types and a knife for defleshing. Specimens were weighed, photographed micro and macroscopically, and tool marks were analyzed before and after burning. Six specimens were burned in an outdoor fire (277- 770°C); the other 18 were cremated in a kiln at 600, 800, or 1000°C. Preservation of saw marks was scored on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being least preserved) using photographic comparison.

As hypothesized, higher temperature correlated to greater degradation. Unexpectedly, however, the degree of preservation was notably inconsistent regarding burn temperature and saw type, though the preservation did exhibit certain trends. It was determined that, in general, the tool marks did progressively diminish as the burning temperature increased. However, the retention of saw and cut marks was adequate for some degree of accurate and useful analysis even at temperatures as high as 1000°C. In several cases tool marks were rendered more visible after burning due to the elimination of soft tissue and possibly a combination of shrinkage, carbonization and calcination intensifying as opposed to diminishing certain features, in other cases tool marks were completely eradicated.




Washington State University, 1610 NE Wheatland Dr. Apt. 20, 99163, Pullman, UNITED STATES,


Battillo, Jenna


August 2010

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Battillo, Jenna. "Preservation and degradation of tool marks in burnt bone ," in BoneCommons, Item #963, (accessed August 7, 2020).


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File: Battillo_ToolMarks_BurntBone_ICAZ2010_Poster.pdf