The archaeology of the petroleum industry

Start - End 
2016 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
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Embedded in the field of archaeology, this project focuses on thetrade and commerce of bitumen in the Persian Gulf in Antiquity.Basically, the export of Iranian bitumen in the late 3rd- and secondmillennium B.C. is the starting point of what will eventually becomethe multi-national commerce in petroleum that it is today. Thisresearch lays bare the roots of this commerce andcharacterizes it from its beginnings until the Hellenistic Period (2ndcentury A.D.).

In order to successfully identify this trade, the current analyticaltechniques used to identify bitumen and their host deposits areoften unsatisfactory. The discipline is in need of more advanced andnovel technologies to enhance molecular separation andidentification. This research project applies new analyticaltechniques such as GCxGC for the first time on archaeologicalbitumen, but also focuses on the development of a new toolsetemploying LCxLC compound separation.

This research embodies traditional archaeology, archaeologicalscience, and chemical separation sciences. All these fields are closelyintertwined with each other when addressing the origins of thepetroleum industry and the identification of its resources andnetworks.