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Research :: ARCHAEOLOGY LABORATORY :: Current Research :: John Hart

Cooking Residues

Cooking Residues
Closeup view of a cooking residue. The white bar is 5 mm
in length.
One source of information about prehistoric cooking activities is charred residue adhering to the interior of pottery and steatite sherds. Other residues are absorbed into the fabric of pottery sherds. Both kinds of residue can provide information on some of the specific foods that were cooked in the vessels. The charred residues can yield phytoliths from plants (Hart et al.2003, 2007a; Hart and Matson 2009; Thompson et al. 2004), starches from plants, and lipids from both plants and animals (Hart et al. 2008; Reber and Hart 2008a, 2008b). Lipids are also absorbed into the fabric of pottery sherds. The phytoliths and starch grains may be identifiable to genus or species, while lipids may be identified to species or high-level taxonomic units. Experiments have recently shown that stable isotope analysis of charred cooking residues can be misleading (Hart et al. 2007b). In fact in order to interpret carbon isotope values from cooking residues it is necessary to know in advance what was actually cooked in the pot when the residue formed. Chronological information can also be gained from charred cooking residues through accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating. Analysis of over 70 AMS dates obtained on charred cooking residues has changed our perceptions of crop histories and of the chronologies of various prehistoric pottery types (Hart and Brumbach 2003, 2005; Hart and Lovis 2007; Hart et al. 2003, 2007a; Thompson et al. 2004). This work has substantially rewritten the histories of maize, bean, and squash in New York State (Hart 2008).

Dr. Hetty Jo Brumbach (University at Albany—SUNY)
Dr. William A. Lovis (Michigan State University)
Robert Lusteck (University of Minnesota)
Dr. R.G. Matson (University of British Columbia)
Dr. Eleanora A. Reber (University of North Carolina—Wilmington)
Dr. Janet K. Schulenberg (Pennsylvania State University)
Dr. Robert G. Thompson (University of Minnesota)
Dr. Gerald R. Urquhart (Michigan State University)

Related Publications
Hart, John P. 2008. Evolving the Three Sisters: The Changing Histories of Maize, Bean, and Squash in New York and the Greater Northeast. In Current Northeast Paleoethnobotany II, edited by John P. Hart, pp. 87-99. New York State Museum Bulletin 512. The University of the State of New York, Albany.

Hart, John P., and Hetty Jo Brumbach. 2003. The Death of Owasco. American Antiquity 68:737-752.

Hart, John P., and Hetty Jo Brumbach. 2005. Cooking Residues, AMS Dates, and the Middle-to-Late-Woodland Transition in Central New York. Northeast Anthropology 69:1-34.

Hart, John P., and William A. Lovis. 2007a. A Multi-Regional Analysis of AMS and Radiometric Dates from Carbonized Food Residues. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 32:201-261.

Hart, John P., and William A. Lovis. 2007b. The Freshwater Reservoir and Radiocarbon Dates on Charred Cooking Residues: Old Apparent Ages or a Single Outlier? Comment on Fischer and Heinemeier (2003). Radiocarbon 49(3):1403-1410.

Hart, John P., Hetty Jo Brumbach, and Robert Lusteck. 2007a. Extending the Phytolith Evidence for Early Maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) and Squash (Cucurbita sp.) in Central New York. American Antiquity 72:563-583.

Hart, John P., and R. G. Matson 2009. The Use of Multiple Discriminant Analysis in Classifying Prehistoric Phytolith Assemblages Recovered from Cooking Residues. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:74-83.

Hart, John P., Eleanora A. Reber, Robert G. Thompson, and Robert Lusteck. 2008. Taking Variation Seriously: Evidence for Steatite Vessel Use from the Hunter’s Home Site, New York. American Antiquity 76:729-741.

Hart, John P., Robert G. Thompson, and Hetty Jo Brumbach. 2003. Phytolith Evidence for Early Maize (Zea mays) in the Northern Finger Lakes Region of New York. American Antiquity 68:619-640.

Hart, John P., William A. Lovis, Janet K. Schulenberg, and Gerald R. Urquhart. 2007b. Paleodietary Implications from Stable Carbon Isotope Analysis of Experimental Cooking Residues. Journal of Archaeological Science 34:804-813.

Reber, E. A. and J. P. Hart. 2008a. Pine Resins and Pottery Sealing: Analysis of Absorbed and Visible Pottery Residues from Central New York State. Archaeometry 50:999-1117.

Reber, Eleanora A., and John P. Hart. 2008b. Visible Clues: The Analysis of Visible Pottery Residues from New York State with Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry. In Current Northeast Paleoethnobotany II, edited by John P. Hart, pp. 129-139. New York State Museum Bulletin 512. The University of the State of New York, Albany.

Thompson, Robert G., John P. Hart, Hetty Jo Brumbach and Robert Lusteck. 2004. Phytolith Evidence for Twentieth-Century B.P. Maize in Northern Iroquoia. Northeast Anthropology 68:25-40.


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