Documenting the Effects of Diagenesis on Bone Artifacts in Coastal Florida Through Wetting Experiments

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Rising sea and groundwater levels in coastal Florida have infringed on and wetted archaeological sites with some sites already submerged by rising sea levels. While studies of moisture-induced artifact diagenesis and destruction have been documented elsewhere, very little documentation exists for Florida and the faunal artifacts typical of Florida. This study sought to fill that gap by documenting the effects of wetting experiments on Floridian bone faunal artifacts. Our findings show that moisture-induced diagenesis and destruction is occurring at Florida sites and is more severe in older artifacts. Also, bone artifacts can retain moisture after the surrounding sediment matrix has dried. Furthermore, vertebrae across taxa are especially vulnerable to moisture-induced diagenesis while fish spines and scales are especially resistant. Although our data are limited, mammal bone seems especially vulnerable to diagenetic destruction, mammal bone being completely absent in the older assemblage, which is consistent with other artifact diagenesis studies. The implications of this study are that artifact assemblages excavated in Florida are biased by the postdeposition and pre-excavation loss of artifacts, specifically biased against diagenetic-prone bone (e.g., mammal and vertebrae) and toward diagenetic resilient bone (e.g., boney fish). This has implications both in terms of site interpretation and preservation priorities.


Southeastern Archaeology


Taylor & Francis




College of Arts and Sciences


Associate Professor Alanna Lecher published an article, Documenting the effects of diagenesis on bone artifacts in coastal Florida through wetting experiments, in Southeastern Archaeology.

Co-authored by April Watson, adjunct professor, and Lynn alumna Gabi Acevedo '22, the article describes the results of an experiment on water-induced weathering of bone artifacts—which was the subject of Acevedo's undergraduate research project.

Received 09 Feb 2023, Accepted 14 May 2023, Published online: 14 Jun 2023

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