Chemical analyses reveal substance used to seal ancient amphora

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Washington, January 21 (ANI): A team of chemists from the University of Valencia (UV) in Spain has confirmed that the substance used to hermetically seal an amphora found among ancient remains at Lixus, in Morocco, was pine resin.

In 2005, a group of archaeologists from the UV discovered a sealed amphora among the remains at Lixus, an ancient settlement founded by the Phoenicians near Larache, in Morocco.

Since then, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry at UV have been carrying out various studies into it components.

The latest study focuses on the resinous material that sealed the vessel.

There are remains of a circular rope-effect decoration around the mouth of the amphora, and on which some fingerprints of the craftsman who moulded it can still be seen.

It would probably have been sealed with a lid of cork or wood, of which nothing remains, possibly including a ceramic operculum, such as those found nearby.

"We have studied the substance that was used to seal the container using three different techniques, and we compared it with pine resin from today", said Jose Vicente Gimeno, one of the authors of the study and a senior professor at the UV.

The results confirm that the small sample analysed, which is 2,000 years old, contains therpenic organic compounds (primaric, isoprimaric and dehydroabietic acids), allowing this to be classified as resin from a tree from the Pinus genus.

The researchers have identified some substances that indicate the age of resins, such as such as 7-oxo-DHA acid, although this kind of compound was not abundant in the sample due to the amphora's good state of preservation.

In addition, Gimeno said that the archaeological resin of the amphora found was hard and blackish with yellow spots, unlike present-day resin, which is more malleable and orangey in colour, similar to the fresh sap of the tree.

"The jar was found in an area that must have been the amphora store of a house from the period between 50 BCE and 10 CE", said Carmen Aranegui, coordinator of the excavations at Lixus and also a senior professor at the UV.

These jars were used as containers for wine or salted products, but after serving this purpose, they could be re-used as watertight storage containers. (ANI)

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