Lipid Residues from Low-Fired Pottery

E. A. Reber*, M. T. Kerr, H. L. Whelton, R. P. Evershed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
261 Downloads (Pure)


This paper assesses the fate of lipids associated with low-temperature and pit-fired pottery to determine to what degree organic compounds persist or are removed during short-firing episodes below 800 °C. Three different types of clay were fired using contrasting techniques including at 400 °C for 4 h in a muffle furnace, and pit-firing in which pottery was fired to higher temperatures but for shorter periods of time. Total lipid extracts obtained by solvent extraction of test sherds were screened using gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID) to determine the lipid concentrations and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) to identify the organic compounds present. The results showed that firing of clay removes all naturally occurring alkyl lipids; however, during pit-firing, diterpenoid lipids were introduced into the clay as a condensate from pine (Pinus spp.) wood used as fuel. These results confirm that alkyl lipids, e.g., fatty acids, can be reliably associated with the use of vessels, although caution is required when interpreting the origins of lipids that might derive from fuel used in firing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-144
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted manuscript in publisher's template.


  • Pottery
  • Lipid residue analyses
  • Gas chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Alkyl Lipids
  • Diterpenoids


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