Bone collagen preservation in the tropics: A case study from ancient Puerto Rico

William J. Pestle, Michael Colvard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Bone collagen is a well-characterized and generally robust protein that plays a key role in both radiometric dating and stable isotopic reconstruction of paleodiet. To be useful for such purposes, however, analyzed collagen must be relatively taphonomically unaltered. To date, little research has been conducted to document the taphonomic fate of bone collagen from archaeological sites in the tropics. In the present work, a large (n = 298) dataset of archaeological bone samples from sites on the island of Puerto Rico is examined by means of radiometric, chemical, and elemental analyses. The ultimate conclusion of this work is that while collagen loss may be accelerated in the tropics versus that seen in samples from higher latitudes, what collagen remains is typically sufficiently well-preserved and taphonomically unaltered as to make radiocarbon dating and/or stable isotopic analysis worthwhile.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2079-2090
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Collagen
  • Paleodiet
  • Puerto Rico
  • Radiocarbon
  • Stable isotope
  • Tropical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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