Resource use in Antquity

Lipid residues of cooking and the processing of other organic commodities have been found to survive in archaeological pottery vessels as components of surface and absorbed residues for several thousand years. Many archaeological artefacts and sediments are porous and absorbent (pottery, bones, textiles, soil), which represents an excellent environment for trapping these molecules and slowing down their degradation during the post-depositional period. With the application of analytical chemistry, these can then be related back to previous vessel use, ancient diet, trade and economy. Techniques such as high temperature-gas chromatography (HTGC), GC/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and GC-combustion-isotope ratio MS (GC-C-IRMS) enable, hitherto unobtainable, information to be obtained from these most common of archaeological artefacts.

Further reading

Evershed, R.P. (2008) Organic residue analysis in archaeology: the archaeological biomarker revolution. Archaeometry, 50, 895-924.

Outram, A.K., Stear, N.A., Bendrey, R., Olsen, S., Kasparov, A., Zaibert, V., Thorpe, N. (2008) The Earliest Horse Harnessing and Milking. Science, 323, 1332-1335.

Salque, M., Bogucki, P. I., Pyzel, J., Sobkowiak-Tabaka, I., Grygiel, R., Szmyt, M. and Evershed, R. P. (2013). Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe. Nature 493, 522-525.

Image of a potsherd
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