Intact archeological human bones and age at death studied with transmission x-ray diffraction and small angle x-ray scattering

Jun Sung Park, Malene Laugesen, Simon Mays, Henrik Birkedal, Jonathan D. Almer, Stuart R. Stock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


High-energy, wide-angle x-ray scattering (WAXS, x-ray diffraction) and small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) were used to study intact human second metacarpal bones (mc2) from two UK archeological sites. A novel method correcting for irregular mass distribution was applied in these transmission geometry experiments done at beamline 1-ID of the Advanced Photon Source. The authors asked whether there were age-at-death-related changes in carbonated apatite (cAp) lattice parameters and whether SAXS could detect collagen D-period peaks in the archeological mc2. For each of the two sites, Ancaster and Wharram Percy in England, six female mc2s were studied; for each site, two were from each of three age-at-death cohorts (young, 18–29 years; middle, 30–49 years; old ≥50 years) along with a modern control mc2. The Rietveld method was applied to the WAXS patterns to provide precise lattice parameter values. The cAp lattice parameters did not correlate with age-at-death estimated from dental wear. From WAXS and the 00.2 diffraction peak widths, four archeological mc2s possessed coherently scattering domain lengths (crystallite c-axis sizes) that matched that of the modern mc2; SAXS revealed the same four archeological mc2 had D-period peak intensities equivalent to that of the modern mc2. The other eight archeological mc2s had significantly larger crystallite sizes (than the modern mc2) and weak or absent D-period peaks, differences attributed to diagenetic changes. Based on these data, the authors suggest that WAXS 00.2 peak width and SAXS D-period peak intensity can be used with intact bones to select those likely to retain largely unaltered tissue nanostructure, which might be required for other analyses. Taken as a whole, the results suggest detecting age-related deterioration in nanostructural features may be difficult in bone showing significant bioerosion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-181
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • age at death
  • carbonated hydroxyapatite
  • collagen D-period
  • crystallite size
  • diagenesis
  • human bone
  • lattice parameters
  • small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS)
  • x-ray diffraction (wide-angle x-ray scattering, WAXS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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