Preserving Bone #1:
Bison Skull Treatment
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Fossils and Bones
from the Arkansas
River
A buffalo skull is one of the
most prized finds from the
Arkansas River. Many of the
points and tools we find are
from cultures which depended
on these hardy beasts. Not
many are found laying on top of
the gravel, but it does happen.
The large skull at left is just as I
first saw it. Most skulls are
upside down, with just the teeth
or neck exposed. Many are
under water. The photo below
shows a Bison Bison skullcap
in-situ. This is fairly typical.
With a full skull you often see
just a row of teeth.
Care must be taken
when excavating
buried skulls and
bone. When wet they
are very soft, and can
break or crumble if
you apply too much
pressure. Dig UNDER
the skull and be sure
both horns are free
before trying to lift.
Use a low
pressure garden
hose and clean
the skull while it
is still saturated
with river water.
Flush out the
brain case, then
go to work on the
sinus cavitys and
horn cores. In
spite of your best
efforts you will
leave some sand
behind. Do the
best you can.
Soaking wet but clean.
Here's the same skull while
drying. Notice how the
sinuses and horn cores hold
water. Dry bone OUT OF THE
SUN! Avoid fans and air
currents. Do not let the bone
freeze. It may take several
weeks to dry fully. Check the
bone daily. If you notice
excessive cracking or if large
flakes begin detaching, move
on to the treatment stage.
It helps to have a
work area with lots
of elbow room. This
is messy, but there
are no toxic or
flammable fumes.
Wood Glue such as
carpenters use is
the best, but White
Glue works fine.
Mix 4 parts warm
water to 1 part
glue. Have warm
water available to
rinse your hands
and tools.
When the skull is
thoroughly dry, it's
time to stabilize
and preserve it.
Wood Glue is made
from the horns,
hoofs and hide of
cows. It replaces
important
elements of the
bone lost though
leaching in the
river. Apply with a
soft 1" paintbrush.
The main thing to
remember is this:
You are SOAKING
the bone, letting
the solution
penetrate as deeply
as possible. Fill the
brain case, and roll
the skull to
distribute the glue.
Get it inside the
horn cores and
sinuses. Take your
time, and let the
solution saturate.
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