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Lecture

A biomarker and isotopic approach to characterise anthropogenic use of ancient fats

  • Jun. Prof. Dr. Cynthianne Spiteri
Date
Tuesday 28 November 2017
Time
Address
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room
A202A ("Aquarium")

We are very pleased to be able to welcome dr Cynthianne Spiteri from the University of Tübingen to the department. She will be giving a talk on characterising the anthropogenic use of ancient fats, and this will be followed by drinks in the canteen area of the department. Staff, (R)MA/(R)MSc students and PhD candidates are welcome!

A biomarker and isotopic approach to characterise anthropogenic use of ancient fats

Jun. Prof. Dr. Cynthianne Spiteri

Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.

Organic residue analysis (ORA) comprises the extraction and characterisation of lipids absorbed into the porous fabric of ceramic vessels during their use-life. Separation techniques, mass spectrometry and isotopic analysis are used to identify the source product(s).

Over decades of research ORA has been successfully used to identify a wide range of animal and plant products, beeswax, bitumen, tars, resins and fermented beverages. The efficacy of ORA lies not only in its ability to chemically identify food and non-food products. The data obtained allows us to inform on vessel function, which resources were available to past communities, different subsistence strategies and culinary preferences adopted by people living in different geographical/environmental locations and time periods, identify non-local products and therefore explore trade and exchange patterns, social dynamics, ancient dentistry, embalming processes, and technological advances in the processing and preparation of natural products.

More recently, ORA has been applied to dental calculus, which traps a wealth of information within its matrix and allows ORA as a technique to be used further back in time. This talk will provide an overview of the method and its use, focusing on major milestones in the application of this technique.

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