It's in the bones: an exploration of human bone protein from the 18th century fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia and its potential applications in bioarchaeological research

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University of New Brunswick


Bioarchaeology has begun to employ biochemical methods as a means to further understand human skeletal remains at a biomolecular level. Specifically, osteocalcin (an abundant, non–collagenous bone protein) is of interest because of its clinically identified relationship with biological factors (i.e., age and sex) and pathological conditions (i.e., trauma and disease) that can be macroscopically observed in archaeological bone. The aim of this study was to extract and quantify osteocalcin from 27 individuals from the Fortress of Louisbourg (1713–1758) skeletal collection to explore whether these clinical trends related to osteocalcin were also visible in archaeological bone. Osteocalcin was successfully extracted from femoral bone samples and interpreted in tandem with sex, age, activity, and evidence of pathology. This study demonstrates the applicability of biochemical analyses as an additional line of evidence when conducting macroscopic skeletal assessments of biological and pathological factors, as well as, represents the first archaeological study of osteocalcin in human skeletal remains from a Canadian context.