The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Dem dry bones: cyclododecane as a tool in osteological analysis


1Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

The stabilization of fragile archaeological materials is often necessary for their extraction, cleaning, and analyses. One method employed for stabilization is the application of cyclododecane, a volatile cyclic alkane. Cyclododecane has primarily been used in museum contexts on sensitive artifacts such as paper, ceramics, and stone. Little is reported on its effectiveness for the stabilization of bone, which is often extremely fragile.

This research concerns the application of cyclododecane to friable bone from a prehistoric (A.D.1250-1350) site in southeastern Georgia, United States. The hypothesis is that reported solvent solution ratios for cyclododecane, and methods of application, would be effective in bone conservation. The goal was stabilization and reduced fragmentation during matrix removal, rendering a sample suitable for bioarchaeological and forensic osteological analysis.

Hypothesis testing included mixing reported solution ratios of cyclododecane and mineral spirits, applying the solutions using pipettes, and observing their effectiveness during sample cleaning and extraction. A solution ratio of 11/20 cyclododecane to solvent proved to be the most effective, which is less than solution ratios recommended for other archaeological materials. Complete solution sublimation took approximately two weeks using fume hood ventilation. The resultant samples were effectively stabilized, and are undergoing osteological analyses.

Cyclododecane is fairly well-known in museum conservation. This research demonstrates its potential for stabilization of bone in bioarchaeological and forensic settings. It is shown that the mixing and application of a solvent solution allows for analysis of bone that may otherwise be too friable to examine.

This study was supported by the University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology and the Georgia Museum of Natural History.

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