Characterising native plant resins from Australian Aboriginal artefacts using ATR-FTIR and GC/MS

Matheson, C. D. and McCollum, A. J. (2014) Characterising native plant resins from Australian Aboriginal artefacts using ATR-FTIR and GC/MS. Journal of Archaeological Science, 52 116-128. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.016

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Author Matheson, C. D.
McCollum, A. J.
Title Characterising native plant resins from Australian Aboriginal artefacts using ATR-FTIR and GC/MS
Journal name Journal of Archaeological Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1095-9238
Publication date 2014-12-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jas.2014.08.016
Volume 52
Start page 116
End page 128
Total pages 13
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher Academic Press
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Resin use by Australian Aborigines has been documented in ethnographic accounts across the continent and is also evident from archaeological and anthropological artefacts. This research assesses the use of attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and gas chromatography coupled mass spectrometry (GC/MS) for the identification of native plant resins on museum artefacts. A collection of thirteen museum artefacts were analysed using light microscopy and characterised using both ATR-FTIR and GC/MS. The resins were identified to the plant genus and one to the species level, as spinifex (Triodia spp. R.Br.), ironwood (Erythrophleum chlorostachys (F. Muell.) Baill.) and grass tree (Xanthorrhoea spp. Sm.) by comparison to a reference collection of modern exudates from 34 Australian plant species. The two analytical methods used, produced a significant agreement in results but one has practical advantages. On eight of the artefacts, ATR-FTIR was able to be performed on the residue in situ, without removal, presenting a non-destructive analytical method for the identification of resins which is applicable to rare and delicate artefacts from museum collections. Permission to remove the residue off the artefact is not always granted or feasible, so ATR-FTIR has a significant advantage over GC/MS and other methods which require chemical treatment or even destruction of the archaeological sample. Both of the methods examined are demonstrated to accurately infer the botanical origin of archaeological and anthropological resins, providing insight on the use, preparation and trading of resins, with the consequent contribution to an understanding of the development and use of hafted tools and other aspects of cultural development.
Keyword Archaeological residues
Archaeological chemistry
Plant resin
Aboriginal artefacts
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 6 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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