Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 175–182 | Cite as

Prologue to Uses of Chemical Residues to Make Statements About Human Activities

  • Vance T. Holliday
  • Denise Lawrence-Zuniga
  • Victor Buchli


Soil chemistry provides the potential for interpreting the archaeological record without necessarily resorting to artifacts, historical documents, ethnoarchaeological observations, or experiments. The range of studies incorporating new technological developments, such as mass spectrometry and multi-element analyses, for analyzing and interpreting the chemical residues found at archaeological sites or modern contexts are increasing in the literature. However, the dilemmas of interpretation concentrate on evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques. Analytical approaches to how scientists make use of chemical residues to make statements about the past, discussed here, expand the potential of the breadth of techniques to investigate daily life activities and further our understanding of the materiality of social life.


Soil chemistry Chemical residues Chemical analysis Human activities Social space 



Thanks to Sandra López Varela and Christopher Dore for organizing this session. They, plus anonymous reviewers, provided considerable help in finalizing the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vance T. Holliday
    • 2
    • 1
  • Denise Lawrence-Zuniga
    • 3
  • Victor Buchli
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.California State Polytechnic UniversityPomonaUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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