Substantiating microCT for diagnosing bioerosion in archaeological bone using a new Virtual Histological Index (VHI)

Mandl, K., Carlson, K.S.,  Brönnimann, D.,   McCall, A., Grassberger, M.,  Teschler-Nicola, M., Weiss-Krejci E.,  Metscher., B.


Recent technological advances have broadened the application of palaeoradiology for non-destructive investigation of ancient remains. X-ray microtomography (microCT) in particular is increasingly used as an alternative to histological bone sections for interpreting pathological alterations, trauma, microstructure, and, more recently, bioerosion with direct or ancillary use of histological indices. However, no systematic attempt has been made to confirm the reliability of microCT for histotaphonomic analysis of archaeological bone. The objective of this study is therefore to compare thin sections of human femora rated with the Oxford Histological Index to microCT sections using the newly developed Virtual Histological Index in order to provide an accessible methodology for the evaluation of bioerosion in archaeological bone. We provide detailed descriptions of virtual sections and assess the efficacy of the method on cranial and postcranial elements, cremated long bones, and faunal samples. The traditional histological and virtual methods showed a strong correlation, providing the first systematic data substantiating lab-based microCT as a suitable alternative tool for reconstructing post-mortem history in the archaeological record, and for the reliable, non-destructive screening of samples for further analyses.

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