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Article

Chemical Modification of Biomarkers through Accelerated Degradation: Implications for Ancient Plant Identification in Archaeo-Organic Residues

1
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, 07745 Jena, Germany
2
Department of Biochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, 07745 Jena, Germany
3
School of Social Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Maria Perla Colombini, Erika Ribechini and Jeannette Jacqueline Łucejko
Molecules 2022, 27(10), 3331; https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27103331
Received: 4 May 2022 / Revised: 18 May 2022 / Accepted: 19 May 2022 / Published: 22 May 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Chemistry and Archaeology: A Unique System to Inquire the Past)
Biochemical and biomolecular archaeology is increasingly used to elucidate the consumption, use, origin, and trade of plants in the past. However, it can be challenging to use biomarkers to identify the taxonomic origin of archaeological plants due to limited knowledge of molecular survival and degradation for many key plant compounds in archaeological contexts. To gain a fundamental understanding of the chemical alterations associated with chemical degradation processes in ancient samples, we conducted accelerated degradation experiments with essential oil derived from cedar (Cedrus atlantica) exposed to materials commonly found in the archaeological record. Using GC-MS and multivariate analysis, we detected a total of 102 compounds across 19 treatments that were classified into three groups. The first group comprised compounds that were abundant in fresh cedar oil but would be unlikely to remain in ancient residues due to rapid degradation. The second group consisted of compounds that remained relatively stable or increased over time, which could be potential biomarkers for identifying cedar in archaeological residues. Compounds in the third group were absent in fresh cedar oil but were formed during specific experiments that could be indicative for certain storage conditions. These results show that caution is warranted for applying biomolecular profiles of fresh plants to ancient samples and that carefully designed accelerated degradation experiments can, at least in part, overcome this limitation. View Full-Text
Keywords: archaeological plant residues; residue identification; secondary metabolites; degradation experiment; catalysis; GC-MS; multivariate analysis archaeological plant residues; residue identification; secondary metabolites; degradation experiment; catalysis; GC-MS; multivariate analysis
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MDPI and ACS Style

Huber, B.; Vassão, D.G.; Roberts, P.; Wang, Y.V.; Larsen, T. Chemical Modification of Biomarkers through Accelerated Degradation: Implications for Ancient Plant Identification in Archaeo-Organic Residues. Molecules 2022, 27, 3331. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27103331

AMA Style

Huber B, Vassão DG, Roberts P, Wang YV, Larsen T. Chemical Modification of Biomarkers through Accelerated Degradation: Implications for Ancient Plant Identification in Archaeo-Organic Residues. Molecules. 2022; 27(10):3331. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27103331

Chicago/Turabian Style

Huber, Barbara, Daniel Giddings Vassão, Patrick Roberts, Yiming V. Wang, and Thomas Larsen. 2022. "Chemical Modification of Biomarkers through Accelerated Degradation: Implications for Ancient Plant Identification in Archaeo-Organic Residues" Molecules 27, no. 10: 3331. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27103331

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