1UMR 5199 PACEA Anthropologie des Populations Passées et Présentes, CNRS, Université Bordeaux 1, 2Military Health Service, Forensic Sciences Institute of the National Gendarmerie, 3Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives, Grand-Est – Nord, 4UMR 5248 CBMN Institute of Chemistry & Biology of Membranes & Nanoobjects, CNRS, Institut Polytechnique Bordeaux, Université de Bordeaux, 5UMS 3033 Institut Européen de Chimie et de Biologie, CNRS, Université de Bordeaux
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Bone study by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (NMR) of hydrogen and carbon atoms allows the identification of bio-hydroxyapatite and exogenous calcite, the characterization of aminoacids contained in collagen. This tool, yet weakly used in physical anthropology purposes, requires few quantity of materials (80 to 150 mg of bone powder) and no chemical treatment.
During this study, many variables were considered: (1) the reproducibility of the results obtained on different bones of the same individual (femur, tibia, humerus, vertebra, rib); (2) the influence of the burial condition (directly in the ground vs. coffin) for two individuals whose death are contemporary (20th century). These results are compared with those obtained on fresh bones.
Primary results showed the presence of collagen whatever the bone studied or the burial conditions were. For the same individual, differences are observed depending on the kind of bone : long bone, such as femur, present a better conservation of the organic matter associated with an upper relative quantity of collagen than bone with a thinner cortical bone (vertebra, ribs). At the same time, we found difference in amino acid composition between the individual directly buried in the soil and the one in the coffin whatever the bone studied are.
NMR spectroscopy gives rise to the differential degradation of the organic fraction according to bone type. For NMR analysis, we have to give priority to bone with thick cortical bone which are more resistant to external contamination.