I am an analytical chemist by training and I apply my skills in the field of cultural heritage. I worked for 5 years at the British Museum where I conducted research on the characterisation of organic materials, particularly focusing on organic residues in ceramics and on natural organic colorants in textiles.
I joined the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art in April 2014. My work is mainly focused on the development and application of new methods for the molecular characterisation and/or radiocarbon dating of organic materials using multi-analytical approaches. I apply these new methodologies to a range of archaeological, historical and environmental samples.
I (co-)supervise the research projects of DPhil and Masters students in chemistry and archaeological sciences. I also teach in the materials and chronology modules of the Masters in archaeological sciences.
“ChromaChron” – Proof of concept grant funded by the European Research Council
This project aims to develop a new chromatography solution to enable a higher throughput and a greater efficiency in the application of purification techniques for collagen based samples. We are working with our industrial partners in the development of the method and we want to bring a commercial product to market. Enabling this technology to be taken up by other laboratories will allow significant improvements to routine dating and geochemical analysis,thereby transforming our ability to provide a chronology for the human and environmental past.
“PalaeoChron, Precision dating of the Palaeolithic, chronological mapping of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of Eurasia" – Project funded by the European Research Council. [http://www.palaeochron.org/]
Current DPhil Students
Jennifer Keute –Understanding the interplay of subsistence, ceramic technology, and local environments in the emergence of pottery in Northeast Asia through ceramic residues
Yushen He – The identification of natural organic components in the construction materials of ancient sites in China
"From natural resources to packaging, an interdisciplinary study of skincare products over time"– Project funded by the Art and Humanities Research council [Principal investigator, 2016-2019]
Assessing the efficiency of supercritical fluid extraction for the decontamination of archaeological bones prior to radiocarbon dating
Deviese, T, Ribechini, E, Querci, D, Higham, T
<p>Bone is one of the main sample types used for building chronologies in archaeology. It is also used in other research areas such as palaeodiet and palaeoenvironmental studies. However, for...</p>
Metabolomics reveals diet-derived plant polyphenols accumulate in physiological bone.
Alldritt, I, Whitham-Agut, B, Sipin, M, Studholme, J, Trentacoste, A, Tripp, JA, Cappai, MG, Ditchfield, P, Devièse, T, Hedges, REM, McCullagh, JSO
Plant-derived secondary metabolites consumed in the diet, especially polyphenolic compounds, are known to have a range of positive health effects. They are present in circulation after ingestion and absorption and can be sequestered into cells within particular organs, but have rarely been investigated systematically in osteological tissues. However, a small number of polyphenols and similar molecules are known to bind to bone. For example alizarin, a plant derived anthraquinone and tetracycline (a naturally occurring antibiotic), are both absorbed into bone from circulation during bone formation and are used to monitor mineralization in osteological studies. Both molecules have also been identified serendipitously in archaeological human bones derived from natural sources in the diet. Whether an analogous mechanism of sequestration extends to additional diet-derived plant-polyphenols has not previously been systematically studied. We investigated whether a range of diet-derived polyphenol-like compounds bind to bone using untargeted metabolomics applied to the analysis of bone extracts from pigs fed an acorn-based diet. We analysed the diet which was rich in ellagitannins, extracts from the pig bones and surrounding tissue, post-mortem. We found direct evidence of multiple polyphenolic compounds in these extracts and matched them to the diet. We also showed that these compounds were present in the bone but not surrounding tissues. We also provide data showing that a range of polyphenolic compounds bind to hydroxyapatite in vitro. The evidence for polyphenol sequestration into physiological bone, and the range and specificity of polyphenols in human and animal diets, raises intriguing questions about potential effects on bone formation and bone health. Further studies are needed to determine the stability of the sequestered molecules post-mortem but there is also potential for (palaeo)dietary reconstruction and forensic applications.