Organic geochemical analysis of archaeological medicine pots from Northern Ghana. The multi-functionality of pottery

Sharon E. Fraser, Timothy Insoll, Anu Thompson, Bart E. van Dongen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Sherds from pots found layered under a granite boulder in the Tong Hills of the Upper East Region of Northern Ghana seem, based on their deposition context to have been used for the preparation of medicines. Organic geochemical and isotopic analyses of these sherds and a modern day analogue reveal an n-alkanoic acid composition that is consistent with their being used in the preparation of plant derived substances. Isotopic analyses of the modern medicine pot indicate a contribution of n-alkanoic acids derived from plants that use C 4 carbon fixation, most likely maize, sorghum and/or millet suggesting that this pot was used for cooking C 4 based plant substances, perhaps, based on current analogy, staple porridge type food. The modern medicine pot could thus have had a prior use. The absence of C 4 plant residues in the archaeological sherds suggests that either staple foodstuffs differed radically to today, or, more likely, were not prepared in vessels that were to be used for medicinal purposes. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2506-2514
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Volume39
    Issue number7
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

    Keywords

    • C 3/C 4 plants
    • Compound specific isotopic analysis
    • GC-C-IRMS
    • GC-MS
    • Ghana
    • Medicine pots

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