Rebecca Gerdes is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Classics. Her project is titled, "Developing a more robust approach to organic residue analysis for the study of ancient Mediterranean foodways.”
Food is foundational to everything from daily life and the economy to social connections and religious practices. Archaeological finds of ancient pottery offer an abundant source of material evidence for the ways people stored, prepared, cooked, and ate food from prehistory to today. Traces of food preserved in the pores of pottery provide direct evidence for how people used their pots in the past; combined with radiocarbon dating of individual molecules from these food residues, they are a powerful tool for reconstructing the practices that shaped the food systems which form the foundation of today?s global food system. Past scholarship has paid little attention to how the diversity of environments and food sources worldwide might complicate interpretations of what a pot once held. This project will develop a robust approach to interpreting the sources of food residues in pottery that is sensitive to differences in the environment. Through collaborations with researchers in food science, engineering, chemistry, and soil sciences, this research offers contributions to fields such as food science, sustainability, and renewable energy, and unique training opportunities for student research assistants.