Reflections on the potential
for preservation of burned bone based on the material
from Saint-Antoine (Vitrolles, Hautes-Alpes)
Maryline RILLARDON, Jean-Pierre BRACCO
The faunal assemblage from the open-air site of Saint-Antoine at Vitrolles (Hautes-Alpes, Epigravettian) has yielded an atypical composition of burned bones (NRT = 23 %), being composed mainly of charred compact bones. While in an experimental context a high proportion of charred bones is typical of the use of skeletal remains as fuel, their representation in archaeological contexts is generally low, particularly in comparison to that of the less intensely burned elements. Contrary to this general principle, the Saint-Antoine deposit shows a strong representation of charred bones in a difficult taphonomic context characterised by an acid sediment and by the intensive action of different taphonomic phenomena (weathering, sediment compaction, dissolution). The high representation of charred bones seems to result from a combination of various factors, including the purpose of the combustion (camp maintenance and/or use as fuel) and their intense fragmentation, together with a higher preservation potential for burned bones (compact and spongy), including charred bones, compared to unburned bone elements when they are buried in acid sediments.