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Taxonomic and Individual Differentiation of Burned and Unburned Bones Using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)

Event Details:

  • Date:       Tuesday 6 March 2018
  • Time:      16:00
  • Venue:    The Cyprus Institute – Guy Ourisson Building, Seminar Room, 1st Floor, Athalassa Campus
  • Speaker: Nikola Vodičková, Erasmus+ Intern, The Cyprus Institute

* The seminar will be in English and the event is open to the public.


A differentiation of bone fragments at species and at an individual level is a basic requirement not only in a field of anthropology but also in a field of archaeology. Even more challenging task is to differentiate burned bone fragments.

The presentation will interduce results of my master thesis in which I used an innovative approach using a manual X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF) for taxonomic and individual differentiation.

The aim of the thesis was to distinguish between bone fragments at the level of species (Bos taurus, Sus scrofa domestica, Equus caballus and Homo sapiens) then on the individual level of human individuals and determine whether the species and individuals can be distinguished even after the remains were burned.

This method is based on the assumption that every individual has a unique elemental composition of bones, which reflects the environment in which it lived, the food it consumed and individual metabolism, which is based on a unique mineral absorption of each individual. Post-depositional processes also play a significant role in an elemental composition of bones.

About The Speaker

Nikola Vodičková received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology at University of West Bohemia, Czech Republic (2014) and her Master’s degree in Anthropology of Past Populations at University of West Bohemia, Czech Republic (2017). In her master thesis she used a manual X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF) for taxonomic and individual differentiation of unburnt and burnt human and animal remains.

In 2016 and 2017 she was a part of an archaeological team excavating an archaeological site of Lapa do Picareiro in Portugal. The cave sediments have been dated between 45 and 8 kya BP and the artefacts, the faunal and the floral remains and the sediments have been used to reconstruct past natural environments (Haws 2012), human diet (Hockett and Haws 2009) and socio-natural interactions (Haws 2012).

Her research interest is focused on human osteology, cremains and species differentiation. She is an intern at the Cyprus Institute since September 2017.


Haws, J. A. 2012. Paleolithic socionatural relationship during MIS 3 and 2 in central Portugal. Quaternary International 264: 61−77.

Hockett, B. a Haws, J. 2009. Continuity in animal resource diversity in the Late Pleistocen human diet of Central Portugal. Before Farming 2: 1−14.


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Additional Info

  • Date: Tuesday 6 March 2018
  • Time: Starts 16:00
  • Speaker: Nikola Vodičková
  • Speaker Position: Erasmus + Intern, The Cyprus Institute