Bone: Chemical Analysis

  • M. Anne KatzenbergEmail author
Living reference work entry


The general structure and chemical composition of bone are similar for all individuals, but there is some tolerance for minor variation in the elemental and isotopic composition of both the organic and inorganic components of bone tissue. This variation is tied to the local environment and to the diet. Both trace elements and stable isotopes act as natural tracers that provide information to archaeologists about details of the lives of past people, including diet, place of residence, and migration. Bone is a porous material composed of small crystals of hydroxylapatite. This small crystal size is beneficial in life since the bone is a storehouse for calcium and phosphorus. Bone mineral can quickly be mobilized from the skeleton when needed for physiological functions. From the perspective of the archaeologist, the small and poorly formed crystals are not an advantage because buried bone picks up and exchanges chemical constituents with the surrounding soil and water. Tooth...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Soren Blau
    • 1
  • Luis Fondebrider
    • 2
  • Douglas H. Ubelaker
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Forensic MedicineVictorian Institute of Forensic Medicine / Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense, EAAF)Buenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA