What Remains: Species Identication and Bone Histology

Alder Creek

Author: Gwen Robbins & Kelsey Gray

Date of Publication: 2011

PDF File: Robbins-and-Gray-Species-Identiication-and-Bone-Histology.pdf


Thousands of bone fragments were recovered during excavation of the Donner family camp site at Alder Creek. Determining what animals were present in the assemblage was a priority, but it was not an easy task. Simply distinguishing human from nonhuman bone was challenging because of the extensive fragmentation, butchering, and burning that took place during entrapment, in addition to physical and chemical changes that occurred after burial. Fortunately, other archaeologists and forensic scientists have developed molecular, genetic, and histological techniques that can be used to discriminate small, burned fragments of human bone from those of other large mammals.