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J Hum Evol. 2008 May;54(5):539-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.07.011. Epub 2008 Apr 8.

Pleistocene human remains and conservation treatments: the case of a mandible from Atapuerca (Spain).

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Area de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, Pl. Imperial Tarraco, 1, 43005 Tarragona, Spain.


Research on human evolution depends in many cases on the study of fossil remains that have been treated by conservators. Conservation is a discipline with its own principles and methods. Its goal is not only long-term preservation, but also information recovery and the facilitation of research. Therefore, specialists in conservation propose and carry out the interventions, while research requirements must act as a guide in many steps of the process. In this article, we present an example of a strict conservation methodology applied to a human mandible from the Pleistocene site of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). An extensive diagnostic examination before the intervention included a computer tomography (CT) scan and stereoscopic light microscopy. This paper describes both the intervention and the mechanical preparation in detail. Finally, the intervention is discussed, as well as general conservation techniques. The compiled details show how this interdisciplinary work allowed retention of both the integrity of the specimen and its information. In conclusion, the development of a suitable method of conservation requires collaboration among all the specialists involved in the study of fossil remains.

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