The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Evidence of Non-bone Cellular and Microstructure Preservation in Skeletonized Remains from Middle Bronze Age Italy


Anthropology, Wayne State University

Friday All day, Clinch Concourse Add to calendar

Histological methods were used to examine the health of three individuals from a Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1300 BC) tomb in Sardinia, Italy. The intention of this research was to identify the nature of the high rates of porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia observed in this population through an examination of the hard tissue. Although these skeletal remains were described as highly fragmented and of poor quality, preservation of microstructures consistent with mummified marrow, including probable blood cells and evidence of diagenetic processes, were detected. Bone tissue was decalcified using an EDTA treatment and embedded in paraffin blocks. Five um sections were prepared with hematoxylin-eosin and Giemsa stains. In a second study performed in a separate laboratory with different technicians, additional compact bone sections were demineralized and samples from the medullary cavity were embedded in cryo-OCT compound. These were prepared with a hematoxylin-eosin stain. The results of the second analysis supported the initial findings. This study indicates that bone marrow and blood cells may be better preserved in skeletonized remains than previously thought, even when the remains are highly degraded and considered to be of poor quality from a macroscopic perspective. Methods such as these can provide an additional line of evidence when addressing health and evolutionary questions through the analysis of human and non-human skeletonized remains.

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