Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Differential Preservation

Pertaining to the relative abilities of different materials to resist degradation in archaeological and paleontological assemblages over time. An artifact made of a softer material such as wood, hair, or tissue is rarely preserved; harder materials such as animal bone, rock, and ashes tend to be found most frequently in older sites. The term is also applied to human bone, as porous bone tends to degrade faster than compact bone, and the bones of children and females faster than those of adult males, which possess a higher calcium content. Awareness of differential preservation is an important factor when one attempts to reconstruct the demographic profile of a paleopopulation.

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