Characterizing organic residues on ceramics by direct analysis in real time time-of-flight mass spectrometry

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Book Chapter

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Chemical analysis of residues on archaeological ceramics provides significant insights into how humans utilized food resources in the past. The methods most commonly used for these studies include GC-MS and LC-MS, which are both time consuming and expensive, but yield large amounts of diagnostic information. We report here developments in using direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry to identify the presence of biomarkers on ceramics. This technique, which requires little or no sample preparation and can be carried out in minutes, has the potential for screening large collections of ceramics for further study with other methods. Simulated sherds with a variety of food residues, including cacao, chilis, wine, olive oil, and garum were studied with and without burial and before and after standard field cleaning protocols. The results clearly show the importance of handling and storage of ceramics prior to any type of analysis.

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