(ORDO NEWS) — Since childhood, many people believe that their bones are white, just like a model skeleton in a biology class. However, this is not quite true. An interesting fact about human physiology.
When bones are found in archaeological sites, they are not as white and shiny as those that hang in museums or classrooms. Nor do they always turn dark colors due to years in the soil.
Dice come in a variety of colors, including black, red, yellow, white, or green. Sometimes coloration can be associated with natural processes in the soil, and sometimes it is an indicator of cultural activity.
The color can be applied directly to the bone, or applied to the skin and imprinted on the skeleton after putrefaction. But that’s not all.
Archeology and the influence of the earth on human bones
Some cases of unusual colors are associated with the nature of the funeral rituals.
Whenever a bone has a difference in pigment, or there is a difference in color between people in a similar area or within the same person, scientists need to investigate the reasons behind it.
So, in one article in 2011, the appearance of black pigmentation on skeletal remains from Mexico was discussed (photo above).
The authors attribute the coloration to a potential range of substances, including manganese oxide, graphite, asphalt, or bitumen, which give bone its black color.
There were also cases when there were several remains with reddish pigmentation.
The main cause of red and yellow pigmentation is ochre, a clay-like soil that, when combined with water, can form a non-toxic oil paint.
If this is found in burial sites, it is first assumed that the skin of the deceased was covered with red ocher as part of the funeral rituals. As the flesh decomposed, the color shifted to the bones.
Spotting greenspots is quite common in a number of historical and social contexts. Green spots appear when bones come into contact with copper or bronze that has begun to decompose.
One study looked at the presence of green spots on jaws in medieval and post-medieval burials in Spain.
Large spots were found on 18 of the 208 people found at the cemetery. The spots were found only in the mouth and in some were so severe that the entire jaw was green, including the teeth.
The reason for this localized staining is due to the practice of placing a coin in the mouth of the deceased. This practice dates back to classical Greek mythology, where money was given to the dead to pay the ferryman to cross the River Styx.
Although the rise of Christianity and Catholicism sought to break this tradition, it is still documented in art and literature.
This coloration shows that the act of “paying the carrier” continued even into the late medieval period.
Disease and bone color
It would be more correct to say that during life, the color of human bones balances between bright brown and pink shades : but, from time to time, you need to take into account the level of protoporphyrins, which, for example, are also found in egg shells.
They can be obtained with certain drugs, which, accordingly, will change the color of a person’s bones during his life.
In addition, there is, for example, alkaptonuria, a rare hereditary disease that prevents the body from completely breaking down two protein building blocks (amino acids) called tyrosine and phenylalanine.
This leads to the accumulation in the body of a chemical substance – homogentisic acid. Over the years, homogentisic acid slowly accumulates in tissues throughout the body, including cartilage, tendons, bones, nails, ears, and heart. So, this acid stains tissues in a dark color and causes a wide range of problems.
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