Abstract It has been demonstrated that the protein osteocalcin can survive in bone in the archaeological record, and postulated that it has the potential to survive over geological time periods. The precise mechanism for this longevity of survival is not yet fully understood, and has not been extensively studied in comparison to other diagenetic aspects of archaeological bone. We report a comparison between osteocalcin survival and the state of preservation of more than 60 bones from 14 archaeological sites. The amount of osteocalcin, assayed immunologically, was compared with diagenetic parameters that measure: the amount of ‘collagen’ in the bone, the mineral changes, the porosity, and the histological preservation of the material. The findings indicate that microbial taphonomy and mineral alteration of bone have a profoundly damaging effect on the preservation of osteocalcin.