Cereals were the backbone of Neolithic agriculture in Europe, but their relative contribution to regional culinary practices is a matter of debate. Ceramic vessels are the most widely available cultural archives for addressing the importance of cereals in early food production systems. However one of the challenges in identifying cereal remains in ceramic artefacts lies in their relatively low content of chemically-stable lipid compounds. We have recently demonstrated that alkylresorcinols, a class of lipids typically associated with cereal grains, can survive in archaeological residues from cold climates (Alps) and possibly also in anaerobic conditions (waterlogged environments). These discoveries provide the impetus for exploring the presence of alkylresorcinols in ceramic artefacts from conventional archaeological contexts, including caves and open air sites. The aims of this project are to 1) experimentally model the degradation of alkylresorcinols in ceramic artefacts during cooking and in burial environments; 2) investigate the survival of these compounds in distinct archaeological contexts dated from the Neolithic (cave and open air) in the NE Iberian Peninsula; and 3) explore the implications for the spread and use of cereal grains in prehistoric southern Europe and Mediterranean region.
PhD starting October 2021 and recruiting now.
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