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From the inside out: Upscaling organic residue analyses of archaeological ceramics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-640
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Early online date4 May 2016
DateAccepted/In press - 13 Apr 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2016
DatePublished (current) - Dec 2017


Investigations of organic residues associated with archaeological pottery using modern analytical chemical methods began in the 1970s. There was early recognition that the analysis of lipids (i.e. fats, waxes and resins) preserved in
surface residues or the fabric of single pottery sherds, representative of single vessels, was a powerful method for defining pottery use at higher specificity. Subsequent developments saw a significant change of scale with studies usually
involving lipid analyses of tens to hundreds of sherds per archaeological assemblage, providing information which extends beyond pottery use. The identification of animal and plant foodstuffs processed in pots lends insights into herding and farming; while trade in exotic organic goods can also be detected. Information about environment and climate can be derived from the isotopic composition of compounds detected in sherds, providing potentially novel avenues of investigation. The direct dating of lipids in pottery sherds is opening up new opportunities for building archaeological chronologies. The integration of lipid residue analyses with other environmental and cultural proxies in interdisciplinary projects is already providing unprecedented insights into past lifestyles from site to regional scales.

    Research areas

  • Lipid residue analyses, Herding strategies, Plant processing, Trade, Food technology, Subsistence, Dating

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