Residue Analysis Of Food And Drinking

1229 words - 5 pages

Residue Analysis of Food and Drinking

When ancient people engaged in daily activities, there must be some “footprints” or human traces left behind. May it be the processing of food, manufacturing of tools, burning of plants, using of herbs or worshiping of their ancestors, residues were formed from a variety of events. As a result of these residues, archeologists are taking advantage of the advanced technologies available, along with the proven use of chemistry knowledge, to analyze these minor remains in an attempt to study the consumption and production of food items and other psychoactive substances by ancient human. By comparing one article about a mixed fermented beverage of ...view middle of the document...

The compounds that survive can be extracted from potsherds and identified through gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS).
There are five analytical methods that can be used to identify the chemical constituents of the pottery and liquid extracts, which are gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS), high-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS), Fourier-transform infrared spectrometry (FT-IR), stable isotope analysis, and selective Feigl spot tests. Despite the abundant ways of analyzing, there are some factors such as environmental and microbial degradation, modern contamination, human processing in antiquity and the degree to which a region’s natural resources have been adequately surveyed for biomarkers that could affect the consensus of the results. Therefore, the more techniques agree with one another the more convincing a particular compound is in existence. As opposed to the five options for liquid analysis, there are only two ways to interpret foodstuffs. One option to identify the organic residue in ancient vessels is to correlate the fatty acid composition, but there are some downsides to it. Most vessels were not just used for one food; other kinds of food would be served so the combination of different food compositions could yield a mixture that could be misleading. Moreover, unsaturated and short-chain fatty acids degrade more quickly during deposition and burial than saturated, long-chain fatty acids, thus changing fatty acid compositions over time (Reber et al 2004). The second approach of interpreting residue is using gas chromatograph-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometer (GC-C-IRMS), which determines the isotope ratios of different foodstuffs that contributed to components that comprise a residue given the fact that absorbed residue could be made up of distinct compounds.
The analysis of liquids in pottery found in Jiahu entails the use of different methods. The FT-IR and HPLC results for 13 of the 16 Jiahu extracted pottery sherds showed that they were chemically most similar to one another after searching for the closest matches in the databases. This result implies that all these vessels originally contained or were used to process a similar liquid (MoGovern et al 2004). Besides matching one another, the Jiahu samples yielded good FT-IR and HPLC matches to modern rice and rice wine, resinated and nonresinated grape wine (ancient and modern), modern phytosterol ferulate esters, modern beeswax, modern grape tannins, various tree resins and herbal constituents (ancient and modern), modern diacylglycerols, and modern calcium tartrate. The most straightforward interpretation of these data is that the Jiahu vessels contained a consistently processed beverage made from rice, honey, and a fruit (MoGovern et al 2004). The shape and the makeup of a vessel tell what substances it holds. Details of the...

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