Near infrared analysis of fossil bone from the Western Cape of South Africa
The burial environment of a fossil bone may be poorly suited to long-term preservation of important chemical constituents. Studies of fossil bone chemistry consequently benefit from knowledge of burial environmental change (burial history). Several techniques have been developed to describe alteration of fossil bone, including measurements of crystallinity using infrared spectroscopy. The utility of near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy was investigated for describing the burial history of fossil bone. Spectra from large sample areas (bulk NIR) identified secondary calcite and clay within fossil bone, and were useful for distinguishing fossils from different localities. Spectra from small sample areas (hyperspectral NIR) were used to map constituents within fossil bones. Calcite and clay pervaded the internal cavities of fossil horn cores, indicating saturation with groundwater. The identification and distribution of secondary minerals is relevant for studies of taphonomic process, hence NIR is a useful supplement to existing techniques for assessing the burial history of fossil bone. © 2011 IM Publications LLP. All right reserved.