Interpreting ancient food practices: Stable isotope and molecular analyses of visible and absorbed residues from a year-long cooking experiment

Melanie J. Miller, Helen L Whelton, Jillian A. Swift, Sophia Maline, Simon Hammann, Lucy J E Cramp, Alexandra McCleary, Geoffrey Taylor, Kirsten Vacca, Fanya Becks, Richard P Evershed, Christine A. Hastorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

Chemical analyses of carbonized and absorbed organic residues from archaeological ceramic cooking vessels can provide a unique window into the culinary cultures of ancient people, resource use, and environmental effects by identifying ingredients used in ancient meals.However, it remains uncertain whether recovered organic residues represent only the final foodstuffs prepared or are the accumulation of various cooking events within the same vessel. To assess this, we cooked seven mixtures of C3 and C4 foodstuffs in unglazed pots once per week for one year, then changed recipes between pots for the final cooking events. We conducted bulk stable-isotope analysis and lipid residue analysis on the charred food macro33 remains, carbonized thin layer organic patina residues and absorbed lipids over the course of the experiment. Our results indicate that: (1) the composition of charred macro-remains represent the final foodstuffs cooked within vessels, (2) thin-layer patina residues represent a
mixture of previous cooking events with bias towards the final product(s) cooked in the pot, and (3) absorbed lipid residues are developed over a number of cooking events and are replacedslowly over time, with little evidence of the final recipe ingredients.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Cooking experiment
  • residue analysis
  • absorbed lipids
  • stable isotopes
  • bulk carbon
  • bulk nitrogen
  • compound-specific carbon isotopes
  • pottery

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    Miller, M. J., Whelton, H. L., Swift, J. A., Maline, S., Hammann, S., Cramp, L. J. E., McCleary, A., Taylor, G., Vacca, K., Becks, F., Evershed, R. P., & Hastorf, C. A. (Accepted/In press). Interpreting ancient food practices: Stable isotope and molecular analyses of visible and absorbed residues from a year-long cooking experiment. Scientific Reports.