I am a Postdoc researcher in the Plant Foods and Hominin Dietary Ecology Group, led by Dr Amanda Henry. My main research interests lie in palaeodietary reconstructions, particularly during transitory periods, and how these relate to the general health and social dynamics of a community. My research so far has focussed on characterising lipid residues extracted mainly from prehistoric ceramic vessels, using Gas Chromatography (GC), GC-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), and GC-combustion-Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (GC-c-IRMS). This type of analysis produces direct evidence for individual vessel use, and therefore provides a good insight into the dietary preferences and cooking techniques of different communities. I am also interested in observing how organic residues decay over time, and in trying to identify specific biomarkers which survive over archaeological timescales, and can therefore be used to identify particular food sources.
My current research project involves experimental work aimed at obtaining a better identification of plant material recovered from archaeological contexts/artefacts, in particular, starches. Starches have been retrieved from various archaeological contexts, including ceramics, lithic surfaces and dental calculus, and their distinctive morphological characteristics have been used to identify the use of different plant types, hence infer palaeodietary preferences. However, it is difficult to distinguish between changes to the starch granules caused by cooking, and decay brought about by taphonomic processes during burial. Changes to the structure of starch granules caused by different cooking techniques have already been carried out, hence, we are now carrying out a long term starch burial experiment, with the aim of better understanding changes to starch morphology caused by taphonomic processes, and also to observe whether or not these can be distinguished from cooked starches.