Organic residue analysis is used to study organic materials deposited on archaeological artefacts during their use. 

A major research strand at BioArCh is lipid residue analysis of ceramic vessels. We have applied this approach to investigate a range of samples, from some of the earliest pottery in the world to vessels from post-medieval urban deposits, and encompassing six continents, from central Russia to remote Island Oceania.

We are also leading on proteomic analysis of organic residues, exploring how the proteins can yield further detailed insights into vessel use.

Organic residue analysis in archaeology: a brief introduction

This presentation shows the analysis of lipids, such as fats, oils and waxes, extracted from archaeological artefacts, focusing on prehistoric ceramic sherds from Japan and Korea. 

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Our people

Photo Name Role


Professor Oliver Craig



Director of BioArCh Facility


Dr Jessica Hendy



Lecturer in Palaeoproteomics

Focus areas

Our research focuses on three major areas:

Artefact use histories and material culture studies

How can information regarding artefact use help create more complete artefact biographies and what is the link between manufacturing characteristics and function? This research area links with our material culture studies research theme.

Whilst we do not offer a commercial service in organic residue analysis, if you are interested in developing collaborations related to these areas then please contact us with an informal enquiry. More details regarding the approach are available in this guide for best practice as well as our current sampling guidelines.

We are particularly keen to develop the following areas through new projects or fellowships:

  • Palaeoproteomics approaches to organic residue analysis
  • Palaeometabolomic approaches to organic residue analysis
  • Identification of plant residues in concert with palaeobotanical analysis
  • AMS dating of organic residues on artefacts
  • Experimental archaeology
  • Practical and theoretical approaches to the study of material culture.


Organic residue analysis at BioArCh is embedded in a much wider international collaborative network. We currently coordinate the ChemArch innovative training network (ITN) providing international doctoral training for the next generation of artefact scientists. Other collaborators are:

Researcher Research institution
Carl Heron Department of Scientific Research, British Museum, London
Karine Tache Université Laval
Ester Oras University of Tartu, Estonia
Shinya Shoda Nara National Research Institute For Cultural properties, Japan
Andre Colonese Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
Miriam Cubas University of Alcala, Spain
Martine Regert CEPAM, University Cote d’Azur

Please visit our facility page for more technical information about the instruments involved.

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