Approaching mercury distribution in burial environment using PLS‑R modelling
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AuthorÁlvarez Fernández, Noemí; Martínez Cortizas, Antonio; García López, Zaira; López Costas, Olalla
Álvarez-Fernández, N., Martínez Cortizas, A., García-López, Z. et al. Approaching mercury distribution in burial environment using PLS-R modelling. Sci Rep 11, 21231 (2021). [https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-00768-8]
SponsorshipDeputación Provincial de Pontevedra; ERC do H2020; Estudo de esqueletos humanos e de secuencias edafosedimentarias do xacemento de A Lanzada 2017-CP035; JIN PID2019-111683RJ-I00; Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacion 2020-PO048; Fundación BBVA; Axencia Galega de Innovación 2021-CP052, ED431C 2021/32; Xunta de Galicia
Mercury environmental cycle and toxicology have been widely researched. Given the long history of mercury pollution, researching mercury trends in the past can help to understand its behaviour in the present. Archaeological skeletons have been found to be useful sources of information regarding mercury loads in the past. In our study we applied a soil multi-sampling approach in two burials dated to the 5th to 6th centuries AD. PLRS modelling was used to elucidate the factors controlling mercury distribution. The model explains 72% of mercury variance and suggests that mercury accumulation in the burial soils is the result of complex interactions. The decomposition of the bodies not only was the primary source of mercury to the soil but also responsible for the pedogenetic transformation of the sediments and the formation of soil components with the ability to retain mercury. The amount of soft tissues and bone mass also resulted in differences between burials, indicating that the skeletons were a primary/secondary source of mercury to the soil (i.e. temporary sink). Within burial variability seems to depend on the proximity of the soil to the thoracic area, where the main mercury target organs were located. We also conclude that, in coarse textured soils, as the ones studied in this investigation, the finer fraction (i.e. silt + clay) should be analysed, as it is the most reactive and the one with the higher potential to provide information on metal cycling and incipient soil processes. Finally, our study stresses the need to characterise the burial soil environment in order to fully understand the role of the interactions between soil and skeleton in mercury cycling in burial contexts.