CLEANING FOSSIL TOOTH SURFACES FOR MICROWEAR ANALYSIS: USE OF SOLVENT GELS TO REMOVE RESISTANT CONSOLIDANT
Fine-scale surface texture analysis of teeth has become increasingly useful for anthropologists and palaeontologists to infer diet and jaw mechanics in fossil animals. We describe a fast, non-abrasive and residue free method for the removal of resistant consolidant from fossil teeth. The method utilises solvent gels, and its use is a significant improvement over previous techniques, particularly where microwear analysis is to be performed. The method adapts techniques originally developed by art conservators for the removal of varnish from oil paintings without damaging the oil paint beneath. A combination of Carbopol (a water soluble acrylic polymer) and Ethomeen (a polyoxyethylene cocoamine detergent) allows solvents such as acetone and ethanol to be suspended in a gel for application to consolidant coated tooth surfaces. Key advantages are that dissolved consolidant is lifted away from the tooth surface into the solvent gel and a high degree of control is possible such that small discrete areas can be cleaned of consolidant. Because the solvents are held within a gel, cleaning of the tooth surface can be performed without the need for a fume hood.
KEY WORDS: solvent gel; microwear; consolidant removal
PE Article Number: 13.3.2T
Copyright: Palaeontological Association November 2010
Submission: 9 July 2010. Acceptance: 15 September 2010