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The identification of archaeological eggshell using peptide markers

Presslee, Samantha, Wilson, Julie, Woolley, Jos, Best, Julia ORCID:, Russell, Douglas, Radini, Anita, Fischer, Roman, Kessler, Benedict, Boano, Rosa, Collins, Matthew and Demarchi, Beatrice 2017. The identification of archaeological eggshell using peptide markers. Science and Technology of Archaeological Research 3 (1) , pp. 89-99. 10.1080/20548923.2018.1424300

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Avian eggshell survives well in alkaline and neutral soils, but its potential as an archaeological resource remains largely unexplored, mainly due to difficulties in its identification. Here we exploit the release of novel bird genomes and, for the first time on eggshell, use MALDI-ToF (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation-time of flight) mass spectrometry in combination with peptide sequencing by LC-MS/MS. The eggshell proteome is revealed as unexpectedly complex, with 5755 proteins identified for a reference collection comprising 23 bird species. We determined 782 m/z markers useful for eggshell identification, 583 of which could be assigned to known eggshell peptide sequences. These were used to identify eggshell fragments recovered from a medieval site at Freeschool Lane, Leicester. We discuss the specificity of the peptide markers and highlight the importance of assessing the level of taxonomic identification achievable for archaeological interpretation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative CommonsAttribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 2054-8923
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 October 2020
Date of Acceptance: 30 December 2017
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 18:35

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