An examination of selected trace elements in modern and ancient samples of Triticum spelta
Analyses were made of concentrations of six elements (the micronutrients copper, iron, manganese and zinc, and the macronutrients calcium and magnesium) in samples of Triticum spetta and the soil they were grown on to investigate relationships between the two, and the possibility of sourcing material found in the archaeological record. Charred and fresh grains of geographically and geologically diverse locations were broken down in nitric acid using a microwave digestion technique. The resultant solutions were analysed by atomic absorption spectroscopy. Soil extractions using nitric acid and diethylene triamine penta-acetic acid allowed analyses of total and available elements. The results of soil / grain digests were investigated but no consistently significant relationships could be discerned. Growth experiments were performed by growing grain samples from various locations on one soil type to assess which factors were primarily important in elemental uptake. Calcium and magnesium uptake appears strongly influenced by the growing environment, but that of the micronutrients is additionally affected by genetic factors. In order to assess changes in elemental concentration due to burial, diagenetic experiments were carried out using grain from various locations and a series of differing burial periods. It was found that there was a trend for concentrations of the micronutrients and magnesium to decrease, whilst calcium concentrations increased substantially. On completion of work with modem grain, samples from the archaeological record were analysed. Elemental concentrations were found to be very different in ancient material and more significantly related to the burial environment. It appears possible to differentiate between leached, rural and waterlogged/urban sites.