Project Details


Pottery typology is the principal method used to date archaeological sites, however, the approach provides relative rather than absolute dates. Paradoxically, 14C dating using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is the technique used to assign absolute or calendrical dates, but pots, being fabricated from fired clay, i.e. aluminosilicate, lack endogenous organic carbon
and so cannot be 14C dated directly. Carbonaceous tempers, amorphous residues adhering to the surface and carbon-based materials co-occurring in the same archaeological deposits as pots have all been 14C-dated but problems exist with either the frequency of occurrence and/or uncertainties of their association(s) with pottery and contamination of these remains. To enable the routine 14C dating of pottery the PI initiated development of a new approach that uses commonly occurring fatty acid components of lipid residues derived from food processing, adsorbed within the protected environment of the walls of vessels. As part of the NeoMilk ERC Advanced grant a new protocol been developed for the extraction and isolation of these compounds using preparative capillary gas chromatography in high purity and sufficient amounts for high precision 14C dating by AMS. This new approach offers a step-change in archaeological dating, which will attract international demand to date archaeological sites. Our aim now is to bring this new method of pottery dating into routine use in archaeology worldwide. This project will take the first steps towards achieving this ambition. This Proof of Concept grant will allow us to
(i) develop a commercialisation plan,
(ii) demonstrate the utility of the approach temporally and spatially,
(iii) analyse the global market,
(iv) formulate and deliver an IPR strategy, and
(v) promote the method to academic and commercial networks.

Alternative titleCompound-Specific Radiocarbon Analysis to Date Prehistoric Human Cultural Change
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/01/20


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