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date: 16 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Organic residues can be defined as the carbon-based remains of plants, animals or humans, either in their original or a decomposed state. Biomolecules that can indicate the source of such residues include lipids (such as fatty acids, sterols, mono-, di-, and triglycerides, di-, and triterpenoids), alkaloids (such as caffeine, capsaicin, cocaine, ephedrine, nicotine, theobromine), carbohydrates (such as polysaccharides and starches), proteins (such as albumin, casein, collagen, gliadin, hemaglobin, hordein, myoglobin) and DNA. Archaeological organic residues have been identified in stains on teeth, deposits on stone tools, stains in soil, smoking pipes, and material adhering to pot sherds. A comprehensive overview of such an overwhelming number of compounds and range of methods is beyond the scope of this chapter. Instead, we present an overview for identifying and interpreting organic residues in ceramic vessels, followed by a brief discussion of issues related to archaeological organic residue analysis in general.

Keywords: organic residue, lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, vessels

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