Calibrating Bone Durability

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez


This chapter explores the disparate durabilities of different skeletal elements in the face of destructive forces. Such attrition differentially affects element survival across the skeleton and thus at least potentially inserts a confounding effect into any analysis of human selectivity based upon nutritional utility. The chapter describes efforts to calibrate variations in skeletal element durability over the last 40 years, focusing on the use of biomedical equipment that measure bone mineral densities. It reviews pioneering studies of bone “volume densities” using photon densitometry and its application to diverse taxa. It summarizes questions emerging about bone mineral estimates drawn this two-dimensionally based technique and discusses the later application of CTscan technology to calibrating bone mineral density, as well as sources of divergence in these two techniques’ measurements. This chapter also explains how zooarchaeologists have juxtaposed bone durability measures with nutritional utility indices to explore the dominant processes involved in forming archaeofaunal accumulations. The chapter discusses simulation study of the potential consequences of limiting assemblage analysis to fewer, high-durability skeletal elements and ends with a consideration of element frequencies in relation to other proxies for modifying processes, such as surface modifications.


Taphonomy Preservation Attrition Photon densitometer CTscan BMD 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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