The 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2018)

The Analysis of Interred Pig Legs in Dartmoor Bog using Portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy


1Surgery, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 2Archaeology, University of Exeter

April 12, 2018 , Zilker 1/2/3 Add to calendar

Our Exeter University archaeology research team buried three pig legs approximately 20 centimeters (cm) below the surface in the Dartmoor bogs of southern Devon, England for ten months. To understand the bog environmental chemistry and its potential diagenetic effects on buried porcine remains, we applied Portable X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (PXRFS) to the pig bone and burial soil. PXRFS is a non-destructive analytical technique that provides objective, on-site information concerning elemental composition.

To assess the potential diagenetic effects of the bog, we analyzed the elemental concentrations of Iron, Lead, Molybdenum, Strontium, Zinc, and Zirconium in the recovered pig bone and burial soil. The significantly higher elemental concentrations of Iron, Lead, Molybdenum, and Zirconium lead to the suggestion that elemental incorporation occurred for those elements in the bog. The low levels of Strontium and Zinc may indica te elemental leaching occurred for those elements in the bog.

PXRFS provides valuable information about the interactions between the bog environment and interred remains. That such chemical changes occurred within less than a year, supports a theory that the chemical processes involved in creating a bog body may occur within a short amount of time compared to archaeological timescales.