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The contents of ancient pottery could help archaeologists resolve some longstanding disputes in the world of antiquities, thanks to scientists at Britain's University of Bristol.
The researchers have developed the first direct method for dating pottery by examining animal fats preserved inside the ceramic walls.
"We're taking a piece of pot and grinding it to a powder, and then extracting lipid that's penetrated right down into the fabric." The researchers used a technique called preparative capillary gas chromatography to isolate the lipids, then they radiocarbon dated purified compounds with an accelerator mass spectrometer located at the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. In all cases, their results were in good agreement with the sample history.
The researchers analyzed 15 pieces of pottery — mostly cooking jars and bowls — ranging in age from 4,000 B. The analysis requires partial destruction of the artifacts, but the researchers didn't run into much opposition along the way.
The research builds on recent work that has shed light on the types and uses of commodities contained within the vessels. 30 edition of Analytical Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Wood tends to decompose over time, and animals often dig up bones and move them around a site.Ceramics, however, have a long and stable lifespan."If you go to a site and you find large amounts of Roman pottery, then you know you've got a Roman site," says Richard Evershed, Ph."Museum curators require some convincing before they let you take their pottery away," Evershed says."However, most of this pottery is not display quality material, but is stored in bags and boxes in the museum archive." Evershed and his colleagues also plan to use the technique to study mummies.