Macerating the mystery bones

I checked in on my bones over the weekend, mostly to take a look at the deer scapulae that, last week, I realized were covered inĀ adipocere, or “corpse wax” – a waxy coating that can be tricky to remove, as it doesn’t decompose like other soft tissues.

After drying out, however, I found that some of the adipocere had become flaky and could be chipped off with little more than a fingernail. I used a stiff-bristled dish brush to expedite the process, and got rid of as much as I could. There is still a fair amount of the wax stuck on the bones, so I’m going to set these aside for now while I decide what to do with them… I’m thinking of re-soaking them and then letting them dry out again to see if that will lift up any more of the adipocere, but I’m going to do a little more research on Google first.

The next bones I pulled out were the mystery bones that I’d started macerating last week. This batch is made up of bones from either a deer or a bighorn sheep, and while they didn’t smell bad at all when I first got them, that had changed dramatically by the time I lifted the lid on the week-old maceration bath.

If the color of the water wasn’t enough of a tipoff, this batch had gotten pretty ripe in only a few days. The bones were way more discolored than I’d originally thought, and there was clearly still some organic matter left inside them, because they smelled terrible even after several minutes of thorough rinsing… and after just a few minutes of sitting in the empty tub, they had leaked gross, pee-colored water all over the bottom of the container. Obviously these were nowhere close to being clean, so I gave them another rinse to get rid of the pee water before refilling the maceration bath and leaving them to soak.

Finally, I turned my attention to the deer bones macerating in the red bucket.

With all but the most stubborn deer bones clean, I decided it was high time to get the rest of the big bones into a degreasing bath. There’s almost no tissue left on these bones, but they still smell nasty, which is a strong indicator that macerating them won’t make much of a difference from this point on. I’m planning to let them degrease for at least a couple of weeks, given how much of a difference six weeks made for the smaller bones, so I probably won’t check on this batch – or the small deer bones – until the end of July.

Until then, expect more regular updates on the mystery bones!

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