Exploring prehistoric cooking practices through Transmission Electron Microscopy.

From George Foody:


On today, the Day of Archaeology I am currently part of CUROP (Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme), aiming to investigate prehistoric cooking practices at feasting sites in Britain. The Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age sites of Whitchurch, Potterne, East Chisenbury and Llanmaes all have large midden deposits, believed to be the result of large-scale feasting. It is not clear whether meat was filleted or cooked whole on the bone, this is important as methods of food preparation are often seen to have significant meanings. By analysing collagen in bone samples under a TEM (Transmission Electron Microscope) we hope to identify whether these bones were cooked. Though this type of method of identifying cooked bone has been proved successful before, it has never been attempted on prehistoric remains.

Pig and sheep were selected as they are the most numerous animals on these sites. In order to the see the difference between cooked and uncooked bone humeri, which would have contained large amounts of meat, and phalanges, which were more likely to have been discarded, were selected.

As I’ve just finished my third year in university, CUROP offers a great opportunity to see the aspects of a research project. Despite the fact that this is only the first week of the programme CUROP has already provided me with experience in a lab, sample preparation and opportunity sharpen my bone identification skills. Overall I’m thoroughly enjoying this Day of Archaeology being at CUROP, investigating archaeology.

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