My research over the past 35 years has encompassed the application of the physical sciences, particularly chemistry, within archaeology, and has included a wide range of topics. It might be summarized under three main headings – the study of archaeological materials, the investigation of biogeochemical processes, and numerical applications in archaeology and palaeoclimatic reconstruction. Each of these has been supported by external research grants, postgraduate studentships, and publications.
I have had almost continuous external funding (mostly UK Research Council) since March 1986. The focus of my research has shifted over the period from a relatively straightforward analysis of archaeological materials to more complex questions of process, integration of various sources of information, and the development of numerical methodologies. There is a continuing need to further develop the theoretical underpinning of materials study in archaeology, including methods for the better integration of scientific provenance studies with existing archaeological understanding.
I am a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a Member of the Oriental Ceramic Society.
Throughout history, humans have been afflicted by parasitic worms, and eggs are readily detected in archaeological deposits. This study integrated parasitological and ancient DNA methods with a large sample set dating between Neolithic and Early Modern periods to explore the utility of molecular archaeoparasitology as a new approach to study the past. Molecular analyses provided unequivocal species-level parasite identification and revealed location-specific epidemiological signatures. Faecal-oral transmitted nematodes (Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura) were ubiquitous across time and space. By contrast, high numbers of food-associated cestodes (Diphyllobothrium latum and Taenia saginata) were restricted to medieval Lübeck. The presence of these cestodes and changes in their prevalence at approximately 1300 CE indicate substantial alterations in diet or parasite availability. Trichuris trichiura ITS-1 sequences grouped into two clades; one ubiquitous and one restricted to medieval Lübeck and Bristol. The high sequence diversity of T.tITS-1 detected in Lübeck is consistent with its importance as a Hanseatic trading centre. Collectively, these results introduce molecular archaeoparasitology as an artefact-independent source of historical evidence.
ancient DNA, archaeology, diet, genetics, parasitology, trade
Beyond ritual bronzes: identifying multiple sources of highly radiogenic lead across Chinese history.
Liu, R, Rawson, J, Pollard, AM
One of the greatest enigmas in the study of Bronze Age China is the source of highly radiogenic lead discovered in the copper-based objects of the Shang period (ca. 1500-1046 BC). Although being relatively rare in nature, such lead contributed over half of the lead consumed across a vast area from the Yellow River to the Yangtze. Identifying its source and supply network would significantly contribute to our understanding of how China achieved the largest metal production across Eurasia. The past thirty years of research have seen various proposals for the origin of this lead, including south-western China, the middle Yangtze River valley, the Qinling and Zhongtiao mountains, and even Africa. This paper attempts to illustrate the tempero-spatial pattern of this highly radiogenic lead using the largest possible databank. Furthermore, by going beyond the bronze data and investigating lead isotopes in non-metal objects, we confirm that multiple sources of highly radiogenic lead must have been used across Chinese history. In turn, this implies the feasibility of a multi-source model for the lead in the Shang bronzes.
A new approach to the chronology of caves 268/272/275 in the dunhuang mogao grottoes: Combining radiocarbon dates and archaeological information within a Bayesian statistical framework
Guo, Q, Staff, RA, Lu, C, Liu, C, Dee, M, Chen, Y, Pollard, AM, Rawson, J, Su, B, Liu, R