Radiocarbon dating cremated bone

One of the interesting results of this study is the extreme variability in the temperatures recorded during the cremations via a thermocouple: from 600 to 900ºC.Temperatures above 900ºC were also recorded locally, but only for a few seconds at any given time - such temperatures would be reached and maintained much more readily in a larger pyre of course.Animal remains obtained from local butchers, fish mongers and supermarkets were burned on different pyres fuelled with manufactured coal briquettes or dendrochronologically dated wood.The animal samples included a cow tibia, two pig ribs, a foot and a shoulder, two lamb legs, a whole chicken, and two fish vertebral columns.

In general, small fragments (for example the phalanges of a pig foot) were fully calcined, while larger ones (for example the cow tibia) were partially calcined with their outer parts mostly white and the inner parts partially grey and black.The legs and wings turned black much faster than the rest of the body (See Figure 4).The skin and flesh then gradually disappeared and, after two hours and a half, only very small, fully calcined bone fragments were recovered.Cremated (charred and calcined) and unburned bone fragments were analysed by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) in order to observe structural and compositional changes.Figure 6 presents the infrared spectra of an unburned, charred, and calcined cow tibia.

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