Hard Tissue and Bioarchaeology Research Group (HTBRG)

Current members


Research topics

The HTBRG at the University of Hildesheim is undertaking research on mineralized dental and skeletal tissues of vertebrates, with a focus on humans and other mammals. By that we attempt to contribute to a variety of topics including the development and structure-function relationships of mineralized tissues, the evolution and functional morphology of dental and skeletal structures, the reconstruction of living conditions and environments of past human and animal populations, and the effects of pollutants and environmental perturbations on individuals and populations.

Members of the group have expertise in various fields, including hard tissue biology, biological anthropology, zoology (with focus on extant and extinct mammals), regenerative biology, evolutionary biology, ecotoxicology, palaeoecology and palaeopathology as well as the preparation and analysis of skeletal and dental tissues. Methods used in these studies include different macroscopic, microscopic (analysis of thin sections in ordinary and polarized light, fluorescence microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, 3D-profilometry) and radiographic (standard x-ray imaging, conventional computed tomography, high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography) techniques, elemental analysis (including microprobing and synchrotron X-ray fluorescence imaging), and isotope analysis.

Our work typically combines fieldwork and laboratory research and is mainly performed as part of several international research projects. Presently our research is focused on the following topics:

  • Microstructural correlates of growth rhythms in enamel and dentin of different mammalian species and reconstruction of patterns of tooth crown growth and life history in primates and other mammals based on these incremental markings. We are currently conducting research using fluorochrome labeling of forming bone and dental tissues in sheep and pigs.
  • Enamel hypoplasia and other structural abnormalities in enamel and dentin as records of growth perturbations caused by systemic stress events, and the use of these markers for life history reconstruction in humans and non-human mammals.
  • Effects of excess fluoride on enamel and dentin formation, and the use of dental fluorosis as a biomarker of excess fluoride exposure in free-ranging mammals.
  • Studies on human skeletal assemblages from different geographical and temporal contexts including palaeopathological and palaeoepidemiological investigations as a means of reconstructing living conditions of past populations. Currently human archaeological remains from the Upper Paleolithic of Central Europe, the Bronze age of Syria and Germany, and early medieval sites in Germany are under investigation.
  • Past disaster research, with a current focus on the Laacher See volcanic eruption c. 13,000 years BP.
  • The structure and development of deer antlers, which constitute the fastest growing bony structures in vertebrates and the only bony organs in mammals that are capable of full regeneration. Besides studies on the formation, regeneration and histological structure of antlers, we are also studying the use of antlers as biomonitors of environmental contamination by metals and fluoride.


Technical equipment

Microscopy and specimen preparation

  • Zeiss EVO MA 15 scanning electron microscope equipped with SE, VPSE, BSE & EDX detectors
  • Zeiss Axio-Imager M2 and Zeiss Axioskop 2plus light microscopes
  • Keyence VK X-1000 laser-scanning microscope
  • Keyence VHX 500 F digital microscope
  • Keyence Biozero 8000 fluorescence microscope
  • Struers Dura Scan hardness tester
  • Struers LaboPol-5 rotor polisher
  • Leica EM ACE 200 sputter coater
  • Woco 50 and Steeg & Reuter motorized precision saws
  • Mixer mill Retsch MM200

Analytical equipment

  • Atomic absorption spectrometer ContrAA 800D, Analytik Jena
  • Fluoride ion selective electrodes and meter (Orion Research)



Recent papers by members of the HTBRG at the University of Hildesheim

Kierdorf, H.; Witzel, C.; Bocaege, E.; Richter, T.; Kierdorf, U. (2021) Assessment of physiological disturbances during pre- and early postnatal development based on microscopic analysis of human deciduous teeth from the Late Epipaleolithic site of Shubayqa 1 (Jordan). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 174, 20-34.

Kierdorf, U.; Flohr, S.; Kahlke, R.-D. (2021) Post-traumatic osteomyelitis in an immature Bison menneri from the Early Pleistocene site of Untermassfeld. In Kahlke R.-D. (ed.) The Pleistocene of Untermassfeld near Meiningen (Thüringen, Germany). Part 5. Monographien des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz Vol. 40 (5), in press.

Kierdorf, U.; Kierdorf, H. (2021) Bilateral antler sequestration above the coronet in a red deer (Cervus elaphus) stag – Insights into the process of antler casting. Anatomia Histologia Embryologia 50, 422- 428.

Ludolphy, C.; Kierdorf, U.; Kierdorf, H. (2021) Lead concentrations in antlers of European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) from an agricultural area in Northern Germany over a 119-year period – a historical biomonitoring study. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, doi:10.1007/s11356- 021-14538-6.

McGrath, K.; Limmer, S.L.; Lockey, A.-L.; Guatelli-Steinberg, D.; Reid, D.; Witzel, C.; Bocaege, E.; McFarlin, S.C.; ElZaatari, S. (2021) 3D enamel profilometry reveals faster growth but similar stress severity in Neanderthal versus Homo sapiens teeth. Scientific Reports 11, 552 (pp 1-12).

Becker, M.; Witzel, C.; Kierdorf, U.; Frölich, K.; Kierdorf, H. (2020) Ontogenetic changes of tissue compartmentalization and bone type distribution in the humerus of Soay sheep. Journal of Anatomy 237, 334-354.

Kierdorf, U.; Kahlke, R.-D. (2020) Pathological findings on remains of hippopotamids from the Early Pleistocene site of Untermassfeld. In Kahlke R.-D. (ed.) The Pleistocene of Untermassfeld near Meiningen (Thüringen, Germany). Part 4. Monographien des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz Vol. 40 (4), 1251-1272.

Riede, F.; Kierdorf, U. (2020) The eruption of the Laacher See volcano (~13,000 years BP) and possible fluoride poisoning amongst contemporaneous wildlife and human foragers – outline of a hypothesis and the way to test it. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 30, 855-871.

Flohr, S.; Hartmann, A.K.; Kierdorf, H.; Schultz, M.; Kierdorf, U. (2019) Histomorphological study on hypocellularity in mastoid processes from archaeological human skeletons. International Journal of Paleopathology 26, 27-36.

Hurnanen, J.; Sillanpää, M.; Mattila M.-L.; Löyttyniemi, E.; Witzel, C.; Rautava J. (2019) Staircase-pattern neonatal line in human deciduous teeth is associated with tooth type. Archives of Oral Biology 104, 1-6.

Kahle, P.; Rolvien, T.; Kierdorf, H.; Roos, A.; Siebert, U.; Kierdorf, U. (2019) Age-related changes in size, bone microarchitecture and volumetric bone mineral density of the mandible in the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina). PLOS ONE 14 (10): e0224480 (pp 1-15).

Kierdorf, H.; Breuer, F.; Witzel, C.; Kierdorf, U. (2019) Pig enamel revisited – Incremental markings in enamel of wild boars and domestic pigs. Journal of Structural Biology 205, 48-59.

Kierdorf, U.; Olsen, M.T.; Kahle, P.; Ludolphy, C.; Kierdorf, H. (2019) Dental pulp exposure, periapical inflammation and suppurative osteomyelitis of the jaws in juvenile Baltic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus grypus) from the late 19th century. PLOS ONE 14 (4): e0215401 (pp 1-26).

Landete-Castillejos, T.; Kierdorf, H., Gomez, S.; Luna, S.; García, A.J.; Cappelli, J.; Pérez-Barbería, J.; Gallego, L.; Kierdorf, U. (2019) Antlers – evolution, development, structure, composition, and biomechanics of an outstanding type of bone. Bone 128: 115046 (pp. 1-20).

Siebke, I.; Moghaddam, N.; Cunningham, C.A.; Witzel, C.; Lösch, S. (2019) Those who died very young— Inferences from δ15N and δ13C in bone collagen and the absence of a neonatal line in enamel related to the possible onset of breastfeeding. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 169, 664- 677.

Death, C.; Coulson, G.; Kierdorf, U.; Kierdorf, H.; Ploeg, R.; Firestone, S.; Dohoo, I; Hufschmid, J. (2018) Chronic excess fluoride uptake contributes to degenerative joint disease (DJD): evidence from six marsupial species. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 162, 383-390.

Flache, L.; Becker, N.I.; Kierdorf, U.; Czarnecki, S.; Düring, R.-A.; Encarnação, J.A. (2018) Similar but not the same: metal concentrations in hair of three ecologically similar, forest-dwelling bat species (Myotis bechsteinii, Myotis nattereri and Plecotus auritus). Environmental Science and Pollution Research 25, 5437-5446.

Flohr, S.; Jasch, I.; Lange, A.; Riesenberg, M.; Hahn, J.; Wisotzki, A.; Kierdorf, H.; Kierdorf, U.; Wahl, J. (2018) Secondary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy in a male from the Early Medieval settlement of Lauchheim, Germany. International Journal of Paleopathology 20, 72-79.

Kahle, P.; Ludolphy, C.; Kierdorf, H.; Kierdorf, U. (2018) Dental anomalies and lesions in Eastern Atlantic harbor seals, Phoca vitulina vitulina (Carnivora, Phocidae), from the German North Sea. PLOS ONE 13 (10): e0204079 (pp 1-25).

Kahle, P.; Witzel, C.; Kierdorf, U.; Frölich, K.; Kierdorf, H. (2018) Mineral apposition rates in coronal dentine of mandibular first molars in Soay sheep: Results of a fluorochrome labeling study. The Anatomical Record 301, 902-912.

Ludolphy, C.; Kahle, P.; Kierdorf, H.; Kierdorf U. (2018) Osteoarthritis of the temporomandibular joint in the Eastern Atlantic harbour seal (Phoca vitulina vitulina) from the German North Sea: a study of the lesions seen in dry bone. BMC Veterinary Research 14:150 (pp 1-14).

Witzel, C.; Kierdorf, U.; Frölich, K.; Kierdorf, H. (2018) The pay-off of hypsodonty - timing and dynamics of crown growth and wear in molars of Soay sheep. BMC Evolutionary Biology 18:207 (pp 1-14).

Death, C.; Coulson, G.; Kierdorf, U.; Kierdorf, H.; Ploeg, R.; Firestone, S.M.; Dohoo, I.; Hufschmid, J. (2017) Skeletal fluorosis in marsupials: a comparison of bone lesions in six species from an Australian industrial site. Science of the Total Environment 584-585, 1198-1211.

Flohr, S.; Rieger, A.; Orschiedt, J.; Kierdorf, H.; Kierdorf, U. (2017) An osteometric study on the variation in orientation of the lesser trochanter in an early medieval human skeletal assemblage and comparison with an individual from the Late Upper Paleolithic. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 27, 888-897.

Kierdorf, U.; Miller, K.V.; Flohr, S.; Gomez, S.; Kierdorf, H. (2017) Multiple osteochondromas of the antlers and cranium in a free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). PLOS ONE 12 (3): e0173775 (pp 1-14).

Orschiedt, J.; Kierdorf, U.; Schultz, M.; Baales, M.; von Berg, A.; Flohr, S. (2017) The Late Upper Palaeolithic human remains from Neuwied-Irlich, Germany. A rare find from the Late Glacial of Central Europe. Quartär 64, 203-216.

Winter, R.; Mucedda, M.; Pidinchedda, E.; Kierdorf, U.; Schmidt, S.; Mantilla-Contreras, J. (2017) Small in size but rich in bats – species diversity and abandoned man-made structures put Asinara Island (Sardinia) into conservation focus for bats in the Mediterranean region. Acta Chiropterologica 19, 119-127.

Flache, L.; Ekschmitt, K.; Kierdorf, U.; Czarnecki, S.; Düring, R.-A.; Encarnação, J.A. (2016) Reduction of metal exposure of Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) following remediation of pond sediment as evidenced by metal concentrations in hair. Science of the Total Environment 547, 182-189.

Flohr, S.; Kierdorf, U.; Kierdorf, H. (2016) Odontometric sex estimation in humans using measurements on permanent canines. A comparison of an early Neolithic and an early medieval assemblage from Germany. Anthropologischer Anzeiger 73, 225-233.

Kierdorf, H.; Rhede, D.; Death, C.; Hufschmid, J.; Kierdorf, U. (2016) Reconstructing temporal variation of fluoride uptake in eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) from a high-fluoride area by analysis of fluoride distribution in dentine. Environmental Pollution 211, 74-80.

Kierdorf, H.; Filevych, O.; Lutz, W.; Kierdorf, U. (2016) Dental defects as a potential indicator of chronic malnutrition in a population of fallow deer (Dama dama) from northwestern Germany. The Anatomical Record 299, 1409-1423.

Kierdorf, U.; Death, C.; Hufschmid, J.; Witzel, C.; Kierdorf, H. (2016) Developmental and post-eruptive defects in molar enamel of free-ranging eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) exposed to high environmental levels of fluoride. PLOS ONE 11 (2): e0147427 (pp 1-27).

Kierdorf, U.; Meng, S.; Kahlke, R.-D. (2016) Resorptive depressions on a horn core of Late Pleistocene (MIS 3) Bison priscus (Bovidae, Mammalia) from northeastern Germany. International Journal of Paleopathology 15, 76-82.