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A MULTI-ANALYTICAL APPROACH FOR THE CHARACTERIZATION OF COMMODITIES IN A CERAMIC JAR FROM ANTINOE (EGYPT)*

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    Received 29 October 2007; accepted 20 February 2008

Abstract

This paper describes a multi-analytical chemical study performed on the original, almost totally conserved, content of a small ceramic jar from the Antinoe archaeological site (fifth to seventh centuries ad, Roman Egypt) and now belonging to the archaeological collection of the Istituto Papirologico ‘Girolamo Vitelli’ (Florence, Italy). Scanning electron microscopy with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (SEM–EDX), Fourier transformed infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) were all used to characterize the inorganic components of the archaeological material. The organic substances were analysed using FTIR, direct exposure mass spectrometry (DE–MS) and gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC–MS). The inorganic component essentially consisted of halite (NaCl). Among the NaCl crystals, lamellar elements were identified. They were chemically characterized by carbonato-apatite and showed a concentric morphology typical of the scales of small fish. The most prevalent organic constituents of the sample were monocarboxylic acids, α,ω-dicarboxylic acids, and cholesterol and its oxidation products. The organic material composition was consistent with the occurrence of lipids of animal origin. In addition, diterpenes related to pine pitch were also identified. The overall results suggest that the material recovered in the small ceramic jar found in Antinoe is a residue of fish-based pickles such as garum, muria, allex and liquamen, which were commonly used in Roman times.

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