Visualising Animal Hard Tissues

From earliest times people have used hard skeletal tissues, such as bone, antler, ivory, horn, baleen (whalebone) and tortoiseshell, as raw material to create almost everything from simple tools to subtle and evocative works of art. Working these raw materials can greatly change their appearance and decay processes can render them almost unrecognisable. Today animal hard tissues have almost entirely been replaced as raw material for artefacts by metallic alloys and synthetic plastics, and wildlife conservation concerns have made some unavailable and unacceptable. With the passing of these raw materials, familiarity with their characteristics and properties has been lost, posing a challenge for those who work with historic and prehistoric artefacts, and to the detection of illegally trafficked, CITES protected materials. The correct identification of these materials is, however, fundamental to understanding the cultural significance, preservation needs and authenticity of these objects.