Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a powerful and increasingly common modality of biomechanical investigation, including imaging, force spectroscopy, and microrheology. AFM indentation of biomaterials requires use of a contact model for data interpretation and material property extraction, and a large segment of the scientific community uses the Hertz model or a close relative for small-scale indentation of thin, soft materials in high strain applications. We present experimental results and analytical/numerical modeling which lead to two main conclusions: (i) Hertzian mechanics are useful in a surprisingly large parameter range, including scenarios in which the underlying assumptions are seemingly violated, and (ii) the Hertz solution serves as a useful base from which power-series type solutions can be derived for a variety of non-Hertzian effects.

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