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It consists of several layers, each with its own function. As skin is usually not preserved in archaeological features, it plays a very subordinate role in bioarchaeometry. If preserved, skin samples allow conclusions to be drawn about, for example, the state of health, tattoos (if present on the sample), etc. As with hair, isotope and element analyses as well as radiocarbon dating can be carried out.

Sample composition

Skin samples should not be preserved, as the removal of the preservative is highly corrosive to the skin. Skin decomposes very easily and therefore severely restricts handling during sample preparation and decontamination.


For radiocarbon dating, there should be a continuous piece about the size of a fingernail. This corresponds to a weight of approx. 50 – 100 mg. If the sample is heavily preserved or embalmed (as with Egyptian mummies), the sample quantity must be doubled. For significantly smaller sample quantities, please consult the laboratory.

Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses

Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses are possible for skin samples from a material quantity of less than 10 mg. However, a larger quantity is required for multiple determinations and in particular for the preparation of preserved/embalmed material. In such cases, please contact the laboratory.