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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19039

Title: Organic Residue Analysis and the Earliest Uses of Pottery in the Ancient Middle East
Authors: Gregg, Michael William
Advisor: Miller, Heather
Department: Anthropology
Keywords: Organic residues
Near Eastern prehistory
First uses of pottery
Stable isotope geochemistry
Issue Date: 18-Feb-2010
Abstract: In this dissertation, I discuss the role of organic residue analysis in identifying economic activities and subsistence practices associated with the first uses of pottery in the Middle East, and present the results of my analyses of 280 potsherds recovered from 22 Neolithic and early Chalcolithic settlements dating between 7300 and 4300 cal BC. The adoption of pottery vessels in the early agricultural villages and pastoral encampments of the Middle East was not a uniform phenomenon, with this new technology not immediately of benefit, apparently, to all human groups. Results of my analyses have demonstrated that ‘conventional’ solvent extraction and alkaline hydrolysis techniques have limited utility in the recovery of diagnostic organic compounds from pottery from early ceramic horizons in the Middle East (Gregg et al. 2007), and that increased yields can be achieved through the use of a microwave-assisted liquid chromatography protocol (Gregg et al. 2009; Gregg and Slater in press). My research has established that there is greater diversity in the fractionation of stable carbon isotopes associated with the synthesis of fatty acids in domesticated animals than has previously been reported. In many instances, the ranges of modern isotopic values that have been used to categorize animal fats in archaeological potsherds in northern Europe cannot distinguish between the ∂13C ratios of ancient dairy residues and carcass fats of ruminant and non-ruminant species in central Europe or the Middle East (Gregg et al. 2009; Gregg and Slater in press). In light of these results, I evaluate the diagnostic potential and limitations of different methodological approaches in the recovery and characterization of organic residues, and propose a series of measures that will allow more confident categorization of the substances in early pottery vessels from the Middle East. I also make a number of recommendations for archaeologists considering the use of organic residue analysis, and suggest some practical ideas on how to develop the degree of confidence necessary to assess the methods used in acquisition of molecular and isotopic data, and ultimately, to evaluate the adequacy of the analytical criteria used to address specific archaeological research questions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19039
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Anthropology - Doctoral theses

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