Hi, welcome to the HOT Project!
The objective of HOT is to improve our understanding of heat-induced changes to bone and teeth and to improve analytical methods that are specific to burned skeletal remains. To do that, skeletons from the CEI/XXI collection are being partially burned under laboratorial conditions (to know more, take a look at our projects).
Although Biological Anthropology is a solid field and has a set of very reliable methodologies, it still has some major frailties. One of such frailties regards the examination of burned skeletal remains. Heat induces several changes in bones and teeth, for example in colour, warping, fractures, mass, size. Probably, the most dramatic of these heat-induced changes concerns size. Both increases and decreases in size have been observed in skeletal burned remains. In the case of shrinkage, changes can be over 30% at times. Therefore, and given that many bioanthropological techniques focus on metric features, implications of such changes are quite vast.
Research on this topic has increased in the last few years, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. We believe that, to allow research to move forward in a more rapid and solid way, a reference collection of human skeletons is required. Reference collections have been used by biological anthropologists for more than 100 years and they’ve proved very useful. Without them, no reliable development and testing of methods is possible. That is why we’re compiling the first collection of experimentally burned skeletons which stems from the 21st century identified skeletal collection (Ferreira et al., 2014). This collection is composed of unclaimed skeletons and comprises the remains of people recently deceased.
This is a collaborative process (learn more about collaborators) between biological anthropologists, archaeologists, molecular biologists, chemists, biochemists, and engineers. Hopefully, this quest which is funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (SFRH/BPD/84268/2012 and PTDC/IVC-ANT/1201/2014) will contribute to the improvement of analyses on burned skeletal remains.