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Dating Reassembled Collagen from Fossil Bones

  • Larisa Goldenberg (a1), Lior Regev (a2), Eugenia Mintz (a3) and Elisabetta Boaretto (a2) (a3)

Insoluble bone collagen is one of the most common materials used for high-resolution radiocarbon (14C) dating. Unfortunately, in some bones, poor preservation of the insoluble collagen excludes the possibility of dating. During the burial of the bone the collagen sometimes degrades into peptides. These peptides are soluble in the acid used to dissolve the bone mineral. It is known that under appropriate conditions, collagen has the ability to self-assemble. Here we exploit this capability and present a method for reassembling the soluble collagen peptides in archaeological bones and dating them. We treated the acid fraction generated during the demineralization of the bone by desalting and neutralizing the solution by dialysis. During the dialysis, the soluble collagen peptides reassemble and precipitate in the dialysis bag. We used FTIR spectroscopy to determine that the precipitated material is indeed collagen. The 14C dates obtained from the reassembled collagen were compared to the dates of “standard” insoluble collagen, extracted in parallel from the same bone. Although there are some divergences of the dates, 3 out of 10 samples could have been dated only by the reassembled collagen. This shows that collagen peptides reassembly can be a valuable tool for dating bones with little or no insoluble collagen.

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Selected Papers from the 8th Radiocarbon & Archaeology Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, 27 June–1 July 2016

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