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A white, rigid, calcareous structure that forms the skeleton of vertebrates. Bones have a concentric structure with central lymphatic canals (Haversian canals) surrounded by a spongy lamellar region (marrow) which in turn is protected by a dense outer cortex. The Haversian canals contain nerve tissues and blood vessels. Bones are primarily composed of calcium hydroxyapatite with smaller amounts of calcium carbonate, calcium fluoride, and magnesium phosphate. They also contain about 30% ossein, a high molecular weight protein. Bones have been carved as tools (spear heads, needles, fish-hooks, handles, etc.) and art objects (ornaments, figurines, inlays, bottles, toys, etc.) since ancient times. They are generally whiter, more porous and less dense than ivory. Bones were also burnt to produce bone black and boiled to produce bone glue.

MFA Acc. #: 1984.283

Synonyms and Related Terms

os (Fr.); knogle (Dan.); Knochen (Deut.); hueso (Esp.); osso (It., Port.); bot (Ned.); ben (Sven.)



Other Properties

Bones can be microscopically distinguished from ivory because they are more porous and they lack the layered structure. UV autofluorescence is blue-white with spots.

Mohs Hardness 2.5
Density 1.7-2.0

Hazards and Safety

Sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.

Additional Information

° A.Child, "Microbial Taphonomy of Archaeological Bone" Studies in Conservation, 40:19-30, 1995.

° J.Thornton,"The Structure of Ivory and Ivory Substitutes", AIC Preprints, Philadelphia, 1981, p.173-181

Additional Images

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: "Bone" by Frank Minney
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Caring for your Collections, Arthur W Schulz (ed.), Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , New York, 1992
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Oppi Untracht, Jewelry Concepts and Technology, Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York City, 1985 Comment: density=2.0
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density=1.7-2.0