The search for ancient hair: a scientific approach to the probabilities and recovery of unattached hair in archaeological sites

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Title: The search for ancient hair: a scientific approach to the probabilities and recovery of unattached hair in archaeological sites
Author: Turner-Pearson, Katherine
Abstract: A recent upsurge exists of archaeologists using ancient hair as a research tool , with new uses of this previously discarded archaeological material being introduced annually . Human hair deteriorates extremely slowly , and since the average modern human sheds approximately one hundred hairs per day , there should be copious amounts of hair debris left behind after humans leave a site ; it is just a matter of how much of the hair survives in the archaeological environment . Most loose hair recovered from archaeological sites , however , is found fortuitously and in many cases , because archaeologists were not actively searching for ancient hair , it is possible they tainted the hair they later tested in ways that compromised their data , or more importantly contaminated their samples with modern hair and did not test ancient hair at all . No standardized method has previously been established for searching for ancient hair in an archaeological site . This paper considers (a ) a method of soil extraction in the field that avoids contamination with modern hair and elements that might hinder later test data ; (b ) the processing of samples in the laboratory while continuing sample integrity ; (c ) identification of the types of soils and environments that are most favorable to hair preservation ; and (d ) an examination of the relevance of hair extraction from sites including the practicality and research potential . This paper examines five archaeological sites , using three different methods of hair extraction , examining the pros and cons of each . This should enable future researchers to find a method that works best for their particular site . It also analyzes the soil chemistry of the sites in order to study the soil and hair survival relationship , so that scientists can better determine which soils hold the best potential for hair survival . Laboratory methods that avoid contamination of the samples are also outlined in order to help researchers keep sample integrity after leaving the archaeological site .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /ETD -TAMU -1417
Date: 2009-05-15

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The search for ancient hair: a scientific approach to the probabilities and recovery of unattached hair in archaeological sites. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /1969 .1 /ETD -TAMU -1417 .

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