Taphonomy of cervids of a Southern Oregon coast site using scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/ms35tb71c

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  • One taphonomic problem plaguing archaeologists and physical anthropologists, whether their research is in North American cultures or hominid sites in Africa, is the difficulty in distinguishing bone altered by burning and heating from bone altered by soil processes. Archaeologists working to understand the recent prehistory of the Southern Oregon Coast face the same challenge. Two relatively new tools were investigated to determine their usefulness to resolving this problem. These are scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). SEM has been well-tested in African sites and experimental studies to identify hominid-created cut marks on bone and to reconstruct heating temperatures of burnt bone. However, SEM and its ability to sample chemistry, as well as XRD's ability to detect diagentic alteration in bone minerals, have not been tested on material from coastal Oregon. The purpose of this research was: (1) to test these methods to see whether they could distinguish between burning and soil alteration, using cervid bone from site 35CS43 near Bandon, Ore., as a test sample, and (2) to see whether the result, paired with archaeological, ethnographic, taphonomic and faunal evidence, could be used to understand how the Coquille were procuring, processing and cooking cervids as insights into their adaptation. The outcome suggests that SEM and XRD, without use of other evidence, are unable to distinguish between burning and soil alteration because the similarities between the two lie not only in changes to the bone's macrostructure (discoloration) but also in bone chemistry, where it was hoped differences could be found. However, these techniques, when paired with the other lines of evidence, did provide insights in understanding the taphonomy and the Coquille's use of cervids - the interaction of bone and soil; the extent of mimicry between burning and soil alteration; and ultimately that discoloration of cervid bone at 35CS43 was likely due to soil alteration, that burning as the result of fire roasting was most likely not occurring at the site, and that the Coquille employed other methods of cooking.
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