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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Investigating Cooking in Prehistory: Results from a Bone Boiling Experiment
by Brennan, Emily J., M.A., The George Washington University, 2015, 44; 1600242
Abstract (Summary)

The universality and importance of cooking both culturally and biologically is well established. Knowing when, where, and how in the archaeological record human groups began employing this practice can help answer questions concerning the timing and mechanism of both behavioral and anatomical changes in hominins. Identifying cooking in the archaeological record, however, is a complex taphonomic issue. When, where, and how hominins started controlling fire in the past is a greatly debated topic. Analyses of microscopic traces in soil and on bone may offer new lines of taphonomic evidence needed to demonstrate a specific use for fire. Specific cooking practices may also leave behind specific traces of macro-, micro-, faunal, and artifactual evidence. Previous research showed no change in the mineral component of human bone when boiled. To test the hypothesis that crystallinity changes also do not occur under low intensity thermal alteration, domestic pig limb bones were boiled for varying lengths of time. This study determined that even at longer periods of boiling, no observable change is observed in the crystallinity of the hydroxyapatite of bone. What was noted, however, was the existence of patina fractures on fleshed bone when boiled to certain lengths of time. Continued study of this novel observation may offer new insights into what degree of thermal intensity is needed for certain macroscopic observations and what micro- or primary structural properties of bone account for them. Other methods that examine the microstructure of bone may be able to detect changes that occur with low intensity thermal alteration that are unrelated to the state of the hydroxyapatite minerals. Further investigation is needed to understand which methods are best able, if possible, to identify differences that occur in bone that undergoes different diagenetic processes (i.e. weathering vs. low intensity thermal alteration vs. high intensity thermal alteration). Such investigations can illuminate how fire was utilized in the past.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ubelaker, Douglas
School: The George Washington University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 55/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Physical anthropology, Paleontology
Keywords: Boiling, Bone, Crystallinity, Fractures, Hydroxyapatite, Taphonomy
Publication Number: 1600242
ISBN: 978-1-339-08512-8
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