Micrograph of the Month: Bits of Bones

For the past few weeks I have been revisiting some old slides from the TP excavation area at Catalhoyuk. I collected these samples  in 2004, and they were some of the first that I worked on for my PhD. At the time I found them a bit disappointing, as there is a lot of bioturbation and erosion  going on in this part of the site, which means that trying to reconstruct activities using microstratigraphic analysis is difficult. The TP area is located very close to the surface of the mound, so despite the fact that these are the youngest deposits, the preservation is nowhere near as good as the earlier, deeply buried deposits. In the end I focused more on the South and 4040 areas, with the TP samples being used as a brief comparison of how different the taphonomic processes are in different parts of the site. Which brings me on to this month's photos! I was contacted by Kamilla 
Pawłowska who is conducting zooarchaeological analysis in the TP area, and is investigating the taphonomy of the animal bones. We are now working together to see how the data from micromorphology can help understand the taphonomic processes inferred from animal bones. So I am doing a more detailed analysis of these slides, focusing specifically on bone inclusions. Here we can see 3 different bone fragments. At the top is a long 'splinter' of bone about 100mm long and 1mm wide. The surface is very 'cracked', and the ends are rounded and fragmenting. In the middle is a small bone fragment that has been weathered to a sub-rounded shape, less than 1mm at its widest point. These fragments are tiny, and would not be seen during routine recovery of bone. The deposits are full of these tiny, highly weathered fragments. The lowermost image shows a slightly larger fragment of bone, that has less 'cracking' on the surface, but is degrading in other ways. The circular features are called haversian canals, tiny little tubes found within bone. In this example they are highly weathered, and we can see at the end of the bone how it is fragmenting in situ, producing all those tiny fragments that are found throughout the sediment. These examples are just some of the many different taphonomic processes that are impacting the bones in these middens, and highlight how micromorphology can be used to shed light on other lines of evidence in archaeology.


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