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An Experiment In Aging Bone


jpevahouse

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Curious to determine how quickly bone would attain a black or dark brown patina buried in mud I undertook a simple experiment. I took a modern deer maxilla found in a nearby stream and put it in a bucket of mud saturated with leaves, twigs and other natural compost. After one month the bone had practically the same dark patina usually seen on bone recovered from streams and described as Pleistocene or ice age. There was no mineralization but I suspect considering how quickly the bone absorbed surrounding minerals and organic material if left in the same context a few hundred years would produce a nice "fossil".

A characteristic of bone is its pourous structure ideal for absorbing surrounding minerals like a sponge.

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I'd say, the next step of the experiment is to see how long it takes to turn the teeth the same dark color. Get back to us with the results.

http://pristis.wix.com/the-demijohn-page

 

What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?

---Shakespeare, The Tempest

 

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Another experiment you can try is soaking the maxilla in a clean batch of water, changing it every few days. After a few months, or less, much of the superficial coloring will leach out and you will have a bone that looks similar to the original.

I would also be interested to see how long it takes to penetrate the enamel.

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I'd say, the next step of the experiment is to see how long it takes to turn the teeth the same dark color. Get back to us with the results

Look though eBay listings and various fossil dealers. How many similar so called fossils have white teeth. Practically none of the bison jaws I've seen for sale have discolored teeth. I'd agree it would take longer for enamel to discolor and bone to mineralize, however, under the right conditions it could possibly only take a few hundred years. Without carbon dating it would be impossible to determine a bone's actual age. Few would pay 500.00 to carbon date a bone only worth a few dollars. So we will never really know.

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jpevahouse wrote:

Look though eBay listings and various fossil dealers. How many similar so called fossils have white teeth. Practically none of the bison jaws I've seen for sale have discolored teeth. I'd agree it would take longer for enamel to discolor and bone to mineralize, however, under the right conditions it could possibly only take a few hundred years. Without carbon dating it would be impossible to determine a bone's actual age. Few would pay 500.00 to carbon date a bone only worth a few dollars. So we will never really know.

We'll know the results of your experiment. So far, you've demonstrated that bone color is perhaps the weakest evidence of all. Don't stop now.

You've demonstrated nothing about the fossils you see on eBay, because not all fossil bone is mineralized and not all fossil teeth are stained dark.

So, go on with your experiment. Add the mineralization component, as well. Just simulate the circulation of mineral-rich groundwater in your bone bucket. Get back to us when you have some results.

http://pristis.wix.com/the-demijohn-page

 

What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?

---Shakespeare, The Tempest

 

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That's pretty interesting. I suspected the color could change pretty quickly, but I was still thinking much longer than that. I agree with the others. I'd be pretty interested to see how long it takes for the teeth to start turning.

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