Caroline Solazzo
Marie Curie Fellow



I joined BioArCh in 2006 to work in Matthew Collins’ team on developing proteomics techniques for the study of ancient proteins. I am currently a Marie Curie fellow, luckily sharing my time between York and New Zealand where I am working in the Protein and Structure team of AgResearch, a group specialised in wool research. The aim of the exchange is to adapt and transfer current methodologies on modern wool to archaeological textiles and other protein fibers.
I have a master degree on analytical chemistry from the University of Orsay (France), and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Lille 1 (France), which I obtained while working at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC) on conservation and archaeological sciences projects. The study of ancient proteins is a recent discipline with high potentials in bioarchaeology. I have been studying it for a few years, looking at new applications such as food residues and fibre identification.


  • 2007: PhD from the Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille (Lille 1), Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry laboratory, France, awarded with the Highest Honours
  • “Biomolecular Archaeology and Proteomics as a new Tool for the Investigation of Ancient Proteins.”
  • 2002: Master degree from Orsay University, Paris 11, France
  • 2009-2012: Marie Curie international fellowship (AgResearch/BioArCh) on wool proteomics and ancient textiles
  • 2008-2009: Postdoctoral fellowship (Smithsonian Institution/BioArch) to study fibre identification by proteomics
  • 2007-2008: Contractor at BioArCh to carry out mass spectrometry analysis on Meat and Bone Meal and gelatin samples for the Central Science Laboratories, EU-funded project, SAFEED-PAP
  • 2006-2007: Marie Curie fellowship at BioArCh on proteomics analysis of ancient materials
  • 2003-2006: Fellowship at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (formerly Smithsonian Center for Material Research and Education), Washington DC, on the study of food residues in ceramics and other technical studies on organic materials
  • 2003: Fellowship at the Smithsonian Center for Material Research and Education, Washington DC, on the effects of peroxide decontamination reagents on the chemical and physical properties of cultural materials
  • 2002: Internship at the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (CRRMF), Paris, for the study of the products of corrosion of copper and silver by XRD, RBS, XPS and SEM
  • 2001: Internship at the Laboratoire d’Etude des Techniques et Instruments d’Analyse Moléculaire (LETIAM), Orsay, France, for the study of ancient inks by GC/MS



My research interests are focused on the development of proteomics methods (gel proteomics, shotgun proteomics, mass spectrometry, protein sequencing) for the analysis of ancient proteins. As part of a study to identify specific marine biomarkers in potsherds from Alaska, I demonstrated that proteins could be extracted from the clay matrix of ceramics under certain conditions. I extracted proteins from an In?upiat ceramic and successfully realized the first sequencing of peptides from potsherd residues by mass spectrometry (Solazzo, 2008, Analytical Chemistry, 80, 4590-4597). The peptide detection at a very high mass resolution unambiguously allowed the identification of seal myoglobin (meat proteins). This study also pointed out the impact of environmental conditions on the preservation of proteins: the northern Alaskan site from which the In?upiat ceramic was recovered presented ideal conditions of conservation (cold weather, permafrost soil, low precipitation). These unique results offer promising perspectives for similar studies of archaeological potsherds, for instance the use of dairy products in clay vessels, of interest to European archaeology.

The THREADs project (Textile and Hair proteomics: Re-examination of European wool from Archaeological Deposits) between AgResearch and BioArCh aims at creating proteome maps for selected breeds and highlight the differentiation in the protein composition (AgResearch). If successful the results will be linked to medieval fibre types and wool quality, and during the second phase of the project (BioArCh) will be compared to historically documented fibre types and archaeological textiles from major textile centres and regional markets. The outcome of the project for archaeology will be the relation to trade and economics of an important period of the wool industry. In the final part of the project we will evaluate the preservation of the identified wool markers in archaeological textiles conserved in association with corroded metals. Another aspect of my research is to evaluate protein damage and see to which extent the protein markers can be detected in ancient textiles and how the proteome is affected by diagenesis and wool processing. This includes the effect on wool proteins of photo-oxidation occurring during the lifetime of a textile (for instance, in relation to cloth history use, or display of tapestries), and especially the effect of dyes and mordants, as well as the effect of the burial environment on excavated textiles. Samples of modern wool will be analysed after remaining in experimental burials for up to 8 years, and will be compared to archaeological samples found in similar conditions. We expect to see protein hydrolysis and side-chain amino acid modifications, which will be related to a specific use and history of a cloth. Eventually this information will be able to advance in our understanding of wool in textiles, and be used for future conservation strategies in museums.


Selected publications

  • Towards the application of desorption electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (DESI-MS) to the analysis of ancient proteins from artefacts, Heaton K., Solazzo C., Collins M, J., Thomas-Oates J., Bergström E., Journal of Archaeological Sciences, 36 (10), 2145-2154, 2009
  • Identification of protein remains in archaeological potsherds by proteomics, Solazzo C., Fitzhugh W., Rolando C., Tokarski C., Analytical Chemistry, 80, 4590-4597, 2008.
  • Protéomique dans l’Art et l’Archéologie, Solazzo C., Tokarski C., Rolando C., Actualité Chimique 318, Chimie et patrimoine Culturel. II. Matières picturales, pigments et colorants, 40-45, April 2008.
  • Weighing the mass spectrometric evidence for authentic Tyrannosaurus Rex collagen, Comment on "Protein Sequences from Mastodon and Tyrannosaurus rex Revealed by Mass Spectrometry" Asara et al., (Reports 13 April 2007, p. 280 in Science), Buckley M., Walker A., Strahler J., Ho S. Y. W., Yang Y., Smith C., Ashton P., Thomas Oates J., Cappellini E., Koon H., Penkman K., Watkins B., Ashford D., Solazzo C., Andrews P., Shapiro B., Ostrom P., Gandhi H., Miller W., Raney B., Zylber M. I., Gilbert M. T. P., Prigodich R. V, Ryan M., Rijsdijk K. F., Janoo A., Collins M. J., Science, 319 (5859), 33c, 2008.

Full publications list

  • Analysis of Lipid Residues in Archaeological Artefacts: Sea Mammal Oil and Cooking Practices in the Arctic, Solazzo C. and Erhardt D.,  2007, Chapter Thirteen, 161-178, Theory and Practice of  Archaeological Residues Analysis, Ed. by H. Barnard and J.W. Eerkens in British Archaeological Reports (BAR) International series 1650 .
  • Chemical analysis of Arctic vessel residues, Solazzo C., 2007, Arctic Studies Center Newsletter, Ed. By W. W. Fitzhugh, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Number 14, pp. 21-22.
  • Mixed Results of Seven Methods for Organic Residue Analysis applied to one Vessel with the Residue of a known Foodstuff ,  Barnard H., Ambrose S.H., Beehr D.E., Forster M.D., Lanehart M.E., Malainey M.E., Parr R.E., Rider M., Solazzo C., Yohe R.M., II,  2007, Chapter Sixteen, 200-215, Theory and Practice of Archaeological Residues Analysis, Ed. by H. Barnard and J.W. Eerkens in British Archaeological Reports (BAR) International series 1650 .
  • Mixed Results of Seven Methods for Organic Residue Analysis applied to one Vessel with the Residue of a known Foodstuff ,  Barnard H., Ambrose S.H., Beehr D.E., Forster M.D., Lanehart M.E., Malainey M.E., Parr R.E., Rider M., Solazzo C., Yohe R.M., II,  2007, Journal of Archaeological Science , Vol.34, 28-37.
  • Effects of Chemical and Biological Warfare Remediation Agents on the Materials of Museum Objects, Solazzo C., Erhardt D., Von Endt D. and Tumosa C.,  2004,   Applied Physics A 79, 247-252.
  • The Effect on Ballpoint Pen and Marker Inks of Chemical and Electron Beam Remediation Techniques for Biological Warfare Agents, Tumosa C., Erhardt D., Solazzo C.,  2002, MAAFS Newsletters 30(3):5-8.


External activities



Contact details

Dr Caroline Solazzo
Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of York
BioArCh, Environment Building
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD