Accessibility statement

Edward Standall

Research Project

Plants in Pots: The Molecular and Isotopic Identification of Cereals in Archaeological Ceramics

Supervisors: Oliver Craig and Carl Heron

Funding: Wellcome Trust


The study of organic residues in archaeology has focused on the exploitation of animal products. Ruminant/non-ruminant, dairy, porcine, wild and marine sources have been identified through extensive analysis of archaeological material and experimental research. However, the exploitation of consumable plant products has not been subjected to the same level of investigation.

The majority of plant products contain proportionally less lipids than animal products. As a result, plant products are difficult to identify in archaeological material. An exception would be the introduction of C4 plants (i.e. maize and millet) that are isotopically distinct when introduced to C3 plant environments. However, experimental research has highlighted the limits of using stable carbon isotope values in the interpretation of C4 presence/absence. Therefore, this project aims to develop upon established isotopic and biomarker techniques to identify millet and rice use in prehistoric periods.

By conducting experiments and analyzing reference material from collections at The British Museum and University College London this project will create a set of data from which it will be possible to interpret archaeological organic residues.

Archaeological material will be identified and selected in accordance with preliminary research and inquiry of recently excavated materials and objects from The British Museum’s collection.


I undertook a BA in Archaeology at The University of Nottingham graduating in 2014. My dissertation (Chicken’ Out: A Taboo of Chickens and Experiments) examined a British Iron Age taboo of chickens, taboos in ethnography, experimental archaeology and the ethics of using animal products in experimental archaeology. I was awarded a scholarship (YMOS) in 2014 to study an MSc in Bioarchaeology at The University of York, graduating in 2015. My thesis (The Diets and Food Cultures of Medieval Spain: A Novel investigation by Lipid Residue Analysis) was a pilot study investigating the application of organic residue analysis on medieval ceramics from Spain and the implications of the results on future research.

Contact details

Mr Edward Standall
Research Student
Department of Scientific Research
The British Museum
Great Russell Street