Back to top


Steven D. Emslie教授
Steven D. Emslie is a professor of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina (Wilmington). The primary focus of his research is the ecology and paleoecology of birds, especially seabirds, but he also studies the fossil record of birds and mammals in North America. Currently, his main focus of research is on the paleoecology of Antarctic penguins, especially the Adelie Penguin, and the foraging ecology of terns and pelicans in North Carolina, and high levels of mercury in archaeological human bone in Portugal and Spain.
Mercury in Human Bone from Cultural Use of Cinnabar in Megalithic Iberia

The discovery of high levels of mercury in archaeological human bone in Portugal and Spain can be traced to using cinnabar as a pigment, preservative, or other uses that resulted in exposure to inorganic mercury.  This mercury entered the blood stream and was deposited in bone during growth and remodeling.  Over time, the exposure could have caused ill affect or even death.  The mercury in cinnabar also can be traced to its source using Hg stable isotopes.  Two archaeological bones from Portugal contain mercury with isotope ratios that match those in cinnabar from a mine at Almaden, Spain, the largest mercury mine and source of cinnabar in the world. This mine is known to have been used as early as the Neolithic in Spain and has been an important source for cinnabar pigment through Roman times. I review this prehistoric use of cinnabar with new data on additional sites that document mercury exposure in this region during the Megalithic period.