Alkylresorcinol detection and identification in archaeological pottery using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole/Orbitrap mass spectrometry

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Rationale Alkylresorcinols (AR) are cereal-specific biomarkers and have recently been found in archaeological pots. However, their low concentrations and high susceptibility to degradation make them difficult to detect using conventional gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Here we describe the development of a more sensitive liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS) method to detect these compounds. Method A method based on the use of ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) coupled to an Orbitrap mass analyser was established and validated for the detection of low-concentration ARs in pottery. During the preliminary experiments, UHPLC-Q/Orbitrap MS (ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole/Orbitrap mass spectrometry) was demonstrated to be more sensitive, and a wide range of AR homologues in cereal extracts were detected, unlike UHPLC-QTOFMS (ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry) and GC/MS. The developed method was utilised to profile AR homologue distribution in modern cereal samples and reanalyse AR-containing pots from the archaeological site of Must Farm. Results A highly sensitive LC/MS method with a limit of detection (LOD) of 0.02??g/g and a limit of quantification (LOQ) of 0.06??g/g was used to profile ARs in five modern cereal grains. The obtained LOD is 250 times lower than that obtained using the conventional GC/MS approach. AR 21:0 was the most abundant homologue in all four Triticum spp.?einkorn, emmer, Khorasan wheat and common wheat. Meanwhile, AR 25:0 was the predominant homologue in barley, potentially enabling differentiation between wheat and barley. The developed LC/MS-based method was successfully used to analyse ARs extracted from Must Farm potsherds and identified the cereal species most likely processed in the pots?emmer wheat. Conclusion The described method offers an alternative and more sensitive approach for detecting and identifying ARs in ancient pottery. It has been successfully utilised to detect AR homologues in archaeological samples and discriminate which cereal species?wheat and barley?were processed in the pots.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9771
Number of pages12
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2024

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