Jeffrey J. Rosentreter, John Malamakal, Kelli Barnes, Matt Alexander
June 10, 2017
Residue analysis has rapidly become one of the most useful techniques for determining an artifact function and revealing insight into paleodiets. The success of analytical residue analysis often lies with the first preparatory step, where the residue is extracted from the object. Detection of a residue requires effective solvation of the material, and there is a large range of potential solvents. One purpose of this study is to determine the efficiency of various solvents for the extraction of fatty acids from charcoal, a material that is ubiquitous, easily identified, remarkably stable in the archaeological record but, most importantly for this research, retains fats extremely well. This investigation examines the removal efficiency of model fatty acids from carbonized wood samples. The strong affinity of lipids to charcoal makes carbonized wood ideal for retaining them, but also makes their extraction extremely challenging and thus an ideal benchmark for solvent extraction characterization. Several solvents (benzene, chloroform, hexane, methanol and water) are used to determine the quantitative extraction efficiency of tripalmitin. While benzene and chloroform perform best for some wood types, neither solvent is better for all carbonized wood. Correlations between the chemical properties of the solvents and the effectiveness of the extraction provide guidance for solvents. Findings indicate solvent characteristics including dipole moment, dielectric constant, hydrogen bonding, and molecular weight all play an important role in extraction of fat from a charcoal matrix. Results presented should provide guidelines to allow for more effective residue extration and more accurate lipid analysis.