Archaeological Protein Residues: New Data for Conservation Science

  • Andrew Barker University of North Texas, Department of Biological Sciences
Keywords: Applied Zooarchaeology, Archaeological Residue Analysis, Proteins, Conservation Biology


The utility of zooarchaeological data for addressing wildlife management and conservation research has been increasingly recognized over the past two decades. As the field of ‘applied zooarchaeology’ continues to grow, newfound opportunities for discovery have arisen via collaborative interdisciplinary approaches. The burgeoning field of proteomics, in particular, has provided numerous opportunities for enhancing the degree to which meaningful information can be recovered from the archaeological record. Archaeological protein residues can inform conservation biologists about paleobiogeography and ecological/evolutionary history and thereby provide insight into wildlife management strategies. In addition to pointing out several cases where archaeological protein residues may be of benefit, I justify the use of protein residues in particular and discuss areas for improvement.


Barnard, H., L. Shoemaker, O. E. Craig, M. Rider, R. E. Parr, M. Q. Sutton, and R. M. Yohe II. 2007. Introduction to the Analysis of Protein Residues in Archaeological Ceramics. In Theory and Practice of Residue Analysis, edited by H. Barnard and J. Eerkens, pp. 216-231. BAR International Series 1650. Archaeopress, Oxford, UK.

Brady, N. C. and R. R. Weil. 2002. The Nature and Property of Soils. Prentice Hall, NJ.

Brandt, E., I. Wiechmann, and G. Grupe. 2002. How Reliable are Immunological Tools for the Detection of Ancient Proteins in Fossil Bones. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 12:307-316.

Buckley, Mike, Sarah Whitcher Kansa, Sarah Howard, Stuart Campbell, Jane Thomas-Oates and Matthew Collins. 2010. Distinguishing Between Archaeological Sheep and Goat Bones using a Single Collagen Peptide. Journal of Archaeological Science 37:13-20.

Callicott, J. B. 2002. Choosing Appropriate Temporal and Spatial Scales for Ecological Restoration. Journal of Biosciences 27:409-420.

Cannon, K. P. and M. B. Cannon. 2004. Zooarchaeology and Wildlife Management in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In Zooarchaeology and Conservation Biology,edited by R. L. Lyman and K. P. Cannon, pp. 45-60. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.

Craig, O. E. and M. J. Collins. 2000. An Improved Method for the Immunological Detection of Mineral Bound Protein Using Hydrofluoric Acid and Direct Capture. Journal of Immunological Methods 236:89-97.

Craig, O. E. and M. J. Collins. 2002. The Removal of Protein Residues from Mineral Surfaces: Implications for Residue Analysis of Archaeological Materials. Journal of Archaeological Science 29:1077-1082.

Eerkens, J. W. and Hans Barnard. 2007. Introduction. In Theory and Practice of Archaeological Residue Analysis, edited by H. Barnard and J. W. Eerkens, pp. 1-7. BAR International Series 1650. Archaeopress, Oxford, UK.

Evershed, R. P. and N. Tuross. 1996. Proteinaceous Material from Potsherds and Associated Soils. Journal of Archaeological Science 23:429-436.

Harpole, J. L. 2004. Zooarchaeological Implications for Missouri's Elk (Cervus elaphus) Reintroduction Effort. In Zooarchaeology and Conservation Biology, edited by R. L. Lyman and K. P. Cannon, pp. 103-115. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.

Heaton, K., C. Solazzo, M. J. Collins, J. Thomas-Oates, and E. T. Bergström. 2009. Towards the Application of Desorption Electrospray Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (DESI-MS) to the Analysis of Ancient Proteins from Artefacts. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:2145-2154.

Kleber, M., P. Sollins and R. Sutton. 2007. A conceptual model of organo-mineral interactions in soils: self-assembly of organic molecular fragments into zonal structures on mineral surfaces. Biogeochemistry 85:9-24.

Kolman, Connie J. and Noreen Tuross. 2000. Ancient DNA Analysis and Human Populations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 111:5-23.

Loy, T. H. 1983. Prehistoric Blood Residues. Detection on Tool Surfaces and Identification to Species of Origin. Science 220:1269-1271.

Lyman, R. L. 1988. Zoogeography of Oregon Coast Marine Mammals: The Last 3000 Years. Marine Mammal Science 4:247–264.

Lyman, R. L. 1996. Applied Zooarchaeology: The Relevance of Faunal Analysis to Wildlife Management. World Archaeology 28:110-125.

Lyman, R. L. 1998. White Goats, White Lies: The Abuse of Science in Olympia National Park. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.

Lynott, M. J., H. Neff, J. E. Price, J. W. Cogswell, and M. D. Glascock. 2000. Inferences about Prehistoric Ceramics and People in Southeast Missouri: Results of Ceramic Compositional Analysis. American Antiquity 65:103-126.

Malainey, M. E., P. Pryzybylski, and B. L. Sherriff. 1999. The Fatty Acid Composition of Native Food Plants and Animals of Western Canada. Journal of Archaeological Science 26:83-94.

Mateu-Andrés, I. 2004. Low Levels of Allozyme Variability in the Threatened Species Antirrhinium subbaeticum and A. pertegasii (Scrophulariaceae): Implications for Conservation of the Species. Annals of Botany 94:797-804.

Mirabaud, Sigrid, Christian Rolando and Martine Regert. 2007. Molecular Criteria for Discriminating Adipose Fat and Milk from Different Species by NanoESI MS and MS/MS of their Triacylglycerols: Application to Archaeological Remains. Analytical Chemistry 79:6182-6192.

Pääbo, S. 1985. Molecular Cloning of Ancient Egyptian Mummy DNA. Nature 314:644-645.

Schweitzer, M. H., W. Zheng, C. L. Organ, R. Avci, Z. Suo, L. M. Freimark, V. S. Lebleu, M. B. Duncan, M. G. Vander Heiden, J. M. Neveu, W. S. Lane, J. S. Cottrell, J. R. Horner, L. C. Cantley, R. Kalluri, and J. M. Asara. 2009. Biomolecular Characterization and Protein Sequences of the Campanian Hadrosaur B. canadensis. Science 324:626-631.

Shanks, O. C., M. Kornfield, and W. Ream. 2004. DNA and Protein Recovery from Washed Experimental Stone Tools. Archaeometry 46:663-672.

Shepard, A. O. 1956. Ceramics for the Archaeologist. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.

Solazzo, C., W. W. Fitzhugh, C. Rolando, and C. Tokarski. 2008. Identification of Protein Remains in Archaeological Potsherds by Proteomics. Analytical Chemistry 80:4590-4597.

Solazzo, C., S. Heald, M. Ballard, E. Cappelini, and M. Collins. 2009. Fiber Identification in Salish Blankets by Proteomics. Presented at the 74th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Atlanta, GA.

Stevens, S. M., Jr. S. Wolverton, B. Venables, A. Barker, K. Seeley, and P. Adhikari. 2010. Evaluation of Microwave-assisted Enzymatic Digestion and Tandem Mass Spectrometry for the Identification of Protein Residues from an Inorganic Solid Matrix: Implications in Archaeological Research. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 396:1491-1499.

Valentine, K., D. A. Duffield, L. E. Patrick, D. R. Hatch, V. L. Butler, R. L. Hall, and N. Lehman. 2008. Ancient DNA Reveals Genotypic Relationships among Oregon Populations of the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris). Conservation Genetics 9:933-938.

Wilson, Don E., Michael A. Bogan, Robert L. Brownell, Jr., A. M. Burdin and M. K. Maminov. 1991. Geographic Variation in Sea Otters, Enhydra lutris. Journal of Mammology 72:22-36.

Wolverton, S., J. H. Kennedy, and J. D. Cornelius. 2007. A Paleozoological Perspective on White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus texana) Population Density and Body Size in Central Texas. Environmental Management 39:545-552.

Yang, Dongya, Joshua R. Woiderski and Jonathan C. Driver. 2005. DNA Analysis of Archaeological Rabbit Remains from the American Southwest. Journal of Archaeological Science 32:567-578.

Yohe II, R. M., M. E. Newman, and J. S. Schnieder. 1991. Immunological Identification of Small-Mammal Proteins on Aboriginal Milling Equipment. American Antiquity 56:659-666.

Zeidler, M. 2000. Electrophoretic Analysis of Plant Isozymes. Biology 38:7-16.

How to Cite
Barker, A. (2011). Archaeological Protein Residues: New Data for Conservation Science. Ethnobiology Letters, 1, 58-65.