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

Application and Use of Cyclododecane, Part II: En Bloc Removal of Osteological Remains


1Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, 2Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Georgia Southern University

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This study contributes to ongoing research of cylcododecane (CDD) as a tool in the recovery and analysis of friable osteological remains. Cyclododecane, in either molten or solvent solution forms, has the unique property of sublimation, making its use completely reversible and thus an ideal tool for work with sensitive materials.

In prior lab experiments, CDD proved successful at stabilizing individual fragments recovered from the field through traditional hand-excavation methods. These excavation methods can unfortunately cause damage to friable remains. This continuation study illustrates the development and testing of field methods to remove sensitive remains en bloc using CDD. The goals were complete removal and reduced fragmentation of clustered remains with their surrounding matrix, with recommendations for best field practices.

The hypothesis is that CDD-saturated cheesecloth molded around pedestaled remains provides sufficient stabilization for en bloc removal. Hypothesis testing included burial of ten clusters of pig bones (five cremated, five unaltered), pedestaling of the clustered remains, and application of molten-CDD saturated cheesecloth prior to attempts at en bloc removal. Four layers of cheesecloth completely saturated in cyclododecane proved to be the most effective at stabilization. After application of this novel methodology, the samples were successfully excavated en bloc and transported to a laboratory for further observation.

This research demonstrates the potential for stabilization and recovery of friable bone in situ in bioarchaeological and forensic settings. It is shown that application of CDD with this method allows for recovery and transportation of burials that may otherwise be damaged during excavation.

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