Potential Issues in the Conservation of Bone and Teeth in Maritime Archaeology

Edda Emanuela Guareschi, Paola Annarosa Magni, Heather G. Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the 1940s, when maritime archaeology was established, the systematic excavation of submerged wrecks began to be refined. Systematic excavations led to the recovery of a vast array of organic and inorganic artefacts, including human and non-human bones and teeth. In order to preserve the materials recovered from the sea, the discipline of maritime conservation rapidly expanded and dealt with unique issues, including, but not limited to, marine salts’ encrustation of archaeological artefacts. Bone and teeth are organic artefacts which provide crucial information about natural and social environments of the past. When recovered from marine settings, they are often friable and require conservation processes and consolidation treatments, e.g., to prevent shrinkage during drying. However, conservation processes and consolidants can interfere with pathological, traumatic and taphonomical evidence associated with bone and teeth, and can bias sample preparation and analysis through mechanical action and chemical composition. The aim of this paper, in which a few examples of interference are listed, is to highlight the need of accurately documenting any type of conservation process and/or consolidation treatment that has been performed on bone and teeth stored in archaeological collections. This becomes essential when samples are selected for study, especially if this includes destructive analysis, and will assist in clarifying any conflicting results, leading to reliable interpretations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-788
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


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