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ERIC Number: EJ1154011
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Sep
Pages: 5
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Lipid Residue Analysis of Archaeological Pottery: An Introductory Laboratory Experiment in Archaeological Chemistry
Harper, Clare S.; Macdonald, Faith V.; Braun, Kevin L.
Journal of Chemical Education, v94 n9 p1309-1313 Sep 2017
In this research-based experiment, students are introduced to the interdisciplinary field of archaeological chemistry by extracting and analyzing lipid residues absorbed in pottery. Reproduction archaeological pottery sherds are prepared by soaking ceramic fragments in individual or combinations of vegetable oils. Students crush and extract the absorbed residues, transesterify the recovered lipids to fatty acid methyl esters, and analyze the product by GC or GC/MS. Recovered residues are characterized by analysis of the major fatty acid peaks, as identified using reference standards or mass spectral databases. An archaeological context that links the sherds to the Minoan civilization is provided to students and must be considered to correctly identify the absorbed residue(s). The laboratory has been used in a topical archaeological instrumentation course that has attracted second to fourth year students majoring in chemistry, biochemistry, and anthropology, and museum studies minors. Pedagogically, the laboratory introduces students to techniques currently used in the field of archaeological chemistry while reinforcing fundamental concepts in sample isolation and preparation, derivatization, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and multicomponent sample analysis.
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A