The small mineral-binding bone protein, osteocalcin, has been applied in a number of studies on ancient bone due to predictions of its long-term stability. However, the intact protein has not been shown to survive in ancient bone devoid of DNA, which is a much more phylogenetically informative biomolecule. In this investigation, the survival of osteocalcin is directly compared to the amplification of mtDNA in a set of 34 archaeological samples from four sites throughout Europe. We also present unpublished osteocalcin sequences of seven mammalian species in addition to the 19 published sequences to highlight phylogenetic limitations of this protein. The results indicate that the intact osteocalcin molecule survives less in archaeological samples than mtDNA and is more subject to the temperature of the archaeological site. Amino acid analyses show the persistence of the dominant protein collagen in samples that failed both osteocalcin and mtDNA analyses. The implications these findings present for biomolecular species identification in archaeological and palaeontological material are that, although proteins do survive beyond ancient DNA, osteocalcin does not appear to be the most ideal target. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.