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Title: Elucidating diet and economy at the ancient city of Teotihuacan (150 BC- AD 650) via molecular and isotropic investigations of organic residues in archaeological pottery
Author: Ascencio , Marisol Correa
ISNI:       0000 0004 5372 6833
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2014
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While the ancient city of Teotihuacan (150BC-650AD) was one the most striking experiments in urbanism in the pre-industrial world, housing a population likely exceeding 100,000 inhabitants in ca. 20 km2, it is likely its inhabitants faced significant economic, social and political challenges in sustaining such dense urban society. As part of wider palaeodietary and cultural investigations at ancient Teotihuacan, organic residue analyses were performed on a wide range of systematically sampled archaeological potsherds from three localities within the city and immediate periphery: La Ventilla (n=148), San Jose 520 (n=73) and site 15:N1E6 (n=92). The main aims of this thesis were to further investigate the relative importance of various foods and food consumption patterns over time and across different parts of the city to relate differences in food consumption to social variation. Absorbed lipid extractions performed on the 313 potsherds represented different ware types and forms, including: ollas (n=144), craters (n=83), bowls (n=24) and amphorae (n=62) corresponding to the Tlamimilolpa and Xolalpan phases (ca. AD 200-550). Due to the low lipid concentrations in potsherds from Teotihuacan, a more efficient lipid residue extraction method involving the use of acidified methanol (H2S04iMeOH 2% v/v, 70°C, 1 h) was developed and applied to the archaeological ceramics from the city. GC screening of the total lipid extracts (TLE) showed 67% of the potsherds contained detectable lipids, with an average concentration of 16 flg g-l. GC-MS of lipid extracts revealed up to ten different classes of biomarkers. The presence of high concentrations of long-chain fatty acids (C22:0 and C24:0) a series of even-chain n-alkanols (C22 to C34) and/or the presence of very low concentrations of plant stanols and sterols together with characteristic Ol3C values of C4 plants suggests the lipid residues of most of potsherds derive from maize (leaf and/or kernel) or mixtures of maize with other commodities with a higher input of maize. Although the analyses provided compelling evidence for the predominance of maize oils/waxes in pottery samples from the three localities, no differences in food consumption patterns were detectable across time and socio-economic status. In addition, the production of the fermented drink, pulque, at Teotihuacan was confirmed through the identification of pine resins (post-firing waterproofing) and bacteriohopanoid (Zymomonas mobilis biomarkers) distributions in a subset of 14 potsherds from La Ventilla, suspected typologically (amphorae) to have been used in pulque production/storage/ transportation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available