Organic Residue Analysis and Archaeology

Guidance for Good Practice

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This document provides guidance for good practice in the recovery, analysis and publication of organic residues from archaeological sites. It has been written for a range of archaeological professionals, including local authority archaeology officers, archaeological units and consultants, project managers, museum curators, conservators and pottery specialists, with the aim of ensuring that approaches are suitable, cost-effective and informative.

The objectives of the guidelines are to:

  • inform practicing archaeologists of the principles and potential applications of organic residue analysis (ORA)
  • provide clear and coherent guidance on organic residues recovery, sampling and analysis
  • demonstrate the research potential of the approach

This guidance was commissioned by Historic England and written by University of Bristol-based organic residue specialists, with contributions from the Universities of Bradford and York, in consultation with pottery specialists, museum curators, field archaeologists, local authority curators and Historic England.

The Supporting Information document contains further detail on terms and concepts used in ORA and analytical techniques used to identify organic residues, together with guidance on where future research themes involving ORA might usefully be targeted. A thematically organised bibliography and details of where to access literature relating to ORA is also included. It also incorporates a short section on reporting, publishing and digital archiving, and guidance for museum curators and conservators in archiving ceramics with potential to be used for ORA.



  • How to use the guidance
  • Introduction
  • Underpinning principles of ORA
  • Analytical techniques
  • Commodities identified from organic residues
  • Archaeological applications
  • Project design, planning and sampling
  • Research agenda and strategy
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Case studies
  • References
  • Glossary
  • Where to get advice
  • Acknowledgements

Supporting Information

  • Lipids, analytical techniquesand preservation
  • Research agenda and strategy
  • Reporting, publishing and archiving
  • Further reading
  • Where to get advice
  • Acknowledgements

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 56 (guidance); 36 (supporting information)
  • Product Code: HEAG058a (guidance); HEAG058b (supporting information)


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