This plain language summary summarizes research recently undertaken as part of an MA thesis (September 2020) at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology (University of Saskatchewan). This thesis set out to map patterns of lifetime lead exposure versus post-mortem lead contamination in bone samples from both modern Saskatchewan and archaeological individuals. In addition to measuring the lead levels of each sample, this thesis used a synchrotron radiation-based element mapping technique to map the distribution of lead within each bone sample on a microscopic scale. When lead is taken up into bone during an individual’s life, it is incorporated into actively forming bone, leading to spatial patterns that reflect individual life histories of lead exposure. When bones are contaminated by lead in the burial environment, the lead is typically found at the outer surfaces and large pores of bone. Therefore, this element mapping technique is useful in helping archaeologists distinguish between lifetime and post-mortem lead exposure and can provide important information about individual histories of lead exposure for archaeological and modern populations alike.
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