Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons

My postdoc work on the pottery residues for the Feeding Stonehenge project was featured on the Channel 4 documentary last night Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons. The organic residues PI, Dr Oliver Craig did a great job of explaining the methods we have been using, with a few hints at our results - full details won't be available until we publish the research towards the end of the year (and complete our statistical analysis to confirm our interpretations!). The work is also featured as one of this week's main news stories on the University of York website here and the Department of Archaeology news page here.
As Ol explains, this is one of the largest studies of pottery residues from a single site (over 300 individual pots were analysed), and by designing a sampling strategy with GIS and other specialists, we have been able to investigate spatial differences in pottery use across the site, between different households, and between domestic and ceremonial areas. Additionally we have been able to make direct comparisons between pottery residue results and those from other materials such as the lithics and animal bones. Many pottery residue studies tend to focus only on the broad picture, choosing perhaps 30 samples for a single site, so there is a limited scope for looking at these more nuanced differences between contexts. As with any scientific study, the sampling strategy is incredibly important, and should be based on the questions that you are hoping to address.

I have previously blogged about the research over the past year or so, some general information on processing the pottery samples here, and the article I wrote for the Day of Archaeology on the analytical methods that we use here. For anyone who missed it, it's available online for the next 29 days on the Channel 4 website here.


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