Uncovering the Chemical Secrets of Burned Bones

In a new study, researchers report that Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) can not only differentiate bone burned in a fire from unburned bone but also distinguish it from fossilized bone, the composition of which might resemble that of burned bone (Anal. Chem. 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b02868). “To make a thorough and reliable analysis of skeletal remains, it would be very, very useful to know whether bone had been burned or not,” says David Gonçalves, a biological anthropologist at Portugal’s Archaeosciences Laboratory of the Directorate General for Cultural Heritage. “For biological anthropologists, this is probably the most difficult human material to work with.”

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