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That's where the appeal of having a technique like this comes in." Until now, there has been no direct method for chemically dating pottery.

Previous researchers have analyzed residues found on the surfaces of pots, but these residues have been in direct contact with the soil and are likely to be contaminated, according to Evershed.

"We're taking a piece of pot and grinding it to a powder, and then extracting lipid that's penetrated right down into the fabric." The researchers used a technique called preparative capillary gas chromatography to isolate the lipids, then they radiocarbon dated purified compounds with an accelerator mass spectrometer located at the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. In all cases, their results were in good agreement with the sample history.

The researchers analyzed 15 pieces of pottery — mostly cooking jars and bowls — ranging in age from 4,000 B. The analysis requires partial destruction of the artifacts, but the researchers didn't run into much opposition along the way.

Organic materials, such as wood and bone, can easily be dated using radiocarbon techniques, but they aren't always available or reliable.

Wood tends to decompose over time, and animals often dig up bones and move them around a site.

The research builds on recent work that has shed light on the types and uses of commodities contained within the vessels. 30 edition of Analytical Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

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"Potentially, you could date any other material that has preserved organic compounds," like pitches from wood products or collagen from bones, according to Evershed."You could even isolate individual amino acids by this preparative GC approach, but no one's tried that. "On The Antiquity Of Pots: New Method Developed For Dating Archaeological Pottery." Science Daily. Scientists have uncovered the earliest direct evidence of humans processing plants for food found anywhere in the world.Researchers studied unglazed pottery dating from more than 10,000 years ago, ...Archaeologists have long dated sites by the visual appearance of pottery fragments found around the site.The new analytical technique will allow archaeologists to more accurately determine the age of pottery and, by extension, the age of associated artifacts and sites.

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