Food for thought: Evidence from ancient lipids preserved in archaeological pots

Vortrag von Dr. Mélanie Roffet-Salque (University of Bristol, UK) in der Reihe »Archaeometry and Forensic Science – equal techniques on different time scales«.

Pottery is the first synthetic material humans created. Pottery fragments (potsherds) are one of the most abundantly recovered materials excavated from archaeological sites; and can carry information relative to subsistence.
Foodstuffs processed in pots release lipids that can survive through archaeological times trapped in clay pores. Lipids recovered from archaeological ceramics are highly degraded complex mixtures often present at low concentrations. Chromatographic, spectrometric and isotopic methods are thus used in order to characterise these ancient lipids and relate them to specific foodstuffs.
For example, the possibility of detecting lipids originating from milk allows the emergence of milk use from the Near East to continental Europe and the UK to be traced. Hence, study of lipids trapped in clay vessels provide insights into past practices such as milk use and cheese-making, contributing to our understanding of the spread of the lactase persistence (LP) allele amongst European populations.