Black-coloured bones in Hayonim Cave, Israel: Differentiating between burning and oxide staining

Ruth Shahack-Gross, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Steve Weiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identification of fossil burned bones is commonly based on their black colour. While colour-based identification is applicable to recent burned bones, fossil bones may be black due to mineral staining, such as by black manganese oxides. We therefore developed an analytical method that purifies oxides from bones. The end product of the method was analysed by means of Fourier transform infra-red (FTIR) spectroscopy. The method can be used for differentiating between black fossil bones that are burned and unstained, burned and stained, and stained but not burned. A survey of 30 black bones from the Mousterian and Aurignacian deposits of Hayonim Cave (Israel) showed that the majority of the bones were indeed burned, of which a few were burned and stained. Several bones were stained and unburned. This method can be readily applied to other archaeological sites where the proportions of burned and stained bones may be quite different.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-446
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1997
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Solveig Schiegl for performing the EDAX measurements and Mary C. Stiner and Paul Goldberg for their help and advice. Also we thank our colleagues in the Hayonim excavation team. The excavation project at Hayonim Cave is co-organized by O. Bar-Yosef and B. Vandermeersch and supported by the French Ministry of Foreign AVairs, the National Science Foundation (Grant DBS-92-08163), and the American School of Prehistoric Research (Peabody Museum) of Harvard University. We also thank the Minerva Foundation for providing funds to S. W.


  • Burned bones
  • Infra-red spectroscopy
  • Manganese oxides
  • Pyrolysed collagen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'Black-coloured bones in Hayonim Cave, Israel: Differentiating between burning and oxide staining'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this