Developing FTIR Microspectroscopy for the Analysis of Animal-Tissue Residues on Stone Tools

Gilliane Monnier, Ellery Frahm, Bing Luo, Kele Missal

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12 Scopus citations


The analysis of microscopic residues on stone tools provides one of the most direct ways to reconstruct the functions of such artifacts. However, new methods are needed to strengthen residue identifications based upon visible-light microscopy. In this work, we establish that reflectance Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIRM) can be used to document IR spectra of animal-tissue residues on experimental stone tools. First, we present a set of reflectance FTIRM standards for the most commonly identified animal-tissue residues on stone tools: skin, meat, fat, hair, blood, feather barbules, fish scales, and bone. We provide spectral peak assignments for each residue and demonstrate that high-quality reflectance FTIRM spectra can be generated under ideal circumstances. Second, we document the spectra for these residues when they are located on a stone substrate such as flint or obsidian. We discuss procedures for correcting spectra that are affected by specular reflection and explain the effects of spectral interference from the stone. Our results show that reflectance FTIRM is sensitive to small intra-sample differences in composition. This means that it will record the effects of decomposition in ancient residues. The methodological developments we present here will help lithic residue analysts incorporate in situ reflectance FTIRM into their analysis protocols to strengthen identifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • FTIR microspectroscopy
  • lithic analysis
  • residue analysis

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