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Detecting Olive Oil and Other Mediterranean Plant Oils: Experimental Considerations in Differentiating Lipids in Ancient Residues

Author(s): Zuzana Chovanec ; Sean Rafferty

Year: 2016

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Summary

This paper presents an experimental research program that assesses the possibility of distinguishing olive oil from other oils derived from Mediterranean plants based on fatty acid profiles. Due to the olive’s prolific use in the region, its oil is often presumed rather than demonstrated to be present in ancient residues. Other residue studies have suggested that different organic products may be differentiated based on specific ratios of fatty acid pairs. To evaluate this approach, a sample of Cypriot olive oil underwent an artificial aging study that modeled chemical alterations of fatty acids using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Fatty acid pairs that potentially could be used to differentiate olive oil from other plant oils were statistically determined. These results of the experimental study were compared to chemical data for other plants indigenous to the island of Cyprus and applied to a data set of archaeological samples that had undergone chemical analysis. The outcome suggests that the method described may be used to distinguish olive oil from other plant oils if a vessel was used exclusively for the storage of olive oil.


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Detecting Olive Oil and Other Mediterranean Plant Oils: Experimental Considerations in Differentiating Lipids in Ancient Residues. Zuzana Chovanec, Sean Rafferty. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404927)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America