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Damage to bone after death

Taphonomy is the damage or changes that occur to bone after death, and often, after burial. It is important to be able to recognise this as distinct from damage or trauma experienced during life. This can be tricky if the trauma was inflicted as cause or near time of death such that no bone healing is evident.

Taphonomy is not only breaking of the bone, but also bone colour and surface texture. Skulls buried in peaty or black fen soil will stain over centuries, and become polished by the subtle movements of marshy areas. Bone near the soil surface can become pocked or eroded directly by plant roots extracting minerals. 

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