Elisabeth Dodinet

Curriculum Vitae

As an ethno-archaeobotanist, I specialized on plant-based raw materials for perfumes, particularly resins, which can not be positively identified except through their chemical signature. Over the last 15 years, I have built a large experience conducting various expertise assignments for companies and research institutions on the identity, the history and the ancient utilizations of aromatic plants. For my work, I have developed original methodologies associating iconographic and written sources with botany, archaeobotany and ethnobotany. I am also the editor in chief of an impact factor Journal, Botany Letters, in which I am associated with many high level researchers of various fields in botany at large. 

PhD: Université Bretagne Sud

Aromatic raw materials of antic perfumes in the Ist millennium BCe in the Mediterranean. Problems in interdisciplinary characterization and identification based on the ANR (French national research Agency)-funded Perhamo and MAGI programs 

My PhD aims to document the antic history of perfumes, based on a corpus of organic analyses performed on the so-called perfume vase forms within the ANR (French National Research Agency) programs Perhamo (2008-2010) and MAGI (Eat, Drink and Offer for Eternity in pre-Roman Gaul and Italy, 2012-2016).

Organic analysis allows to characterize chemically the amorphous residues found in the vases or trapped inside their fabric, be it in ceramic, glass, stone or metal. Although degraded and modified by their post)-deposition history, these residues have retained a memory of the different classes of the contained products: fats (animal or plant-based), waxes, fermented products (including wine), plant products (including resins)…

Since the 1970s, these analyses and the possibilities they opened have generated strong expectations among the archaeologists and historians. However, there is a significant gap between the answers awaited, which are required to be simple and directly accessible (eg. the name of the plant(s) involved, the exact recipe) and the data produced, which is in the form of a list of biochemical markers with no single straightforward interpretation. It is, thus, important to make available to the field users of organic analyses of residues some bridging tools that will allow them to have a critical reading of the results obtained and to get actively involved in the interpretation of the data. 

In this context, the main objectives of this PhD, based on the example of aromatic and perfume products, are

  • To propose a review of the known biochemical markers to date and of their possible interpretations, enlightening the difficulties and the challenges of each marker or product, providing a critical analysis of the sources and literature;
  • Building on the experience acquired through the ANR programs and other sets of analyses performed, to propose a methodological path for the interpretative process;
  • To present and discuss the main findings of the Perhamo and MAGI programs within the problematics of the cultural and technical history of antic perfumes.

The analyses performed within the above cited programs have allowed to build a corpus of a total of 400 analyses, with 257 of them on perfume vases, mainly in Italy, South France, Rhodes and Libya in the course of the Istmillennium BCe. The available corpus by its qualitative and quantitative dimensions provides a unique set of analyses focused on the perfumes in the Mediterranean (Perhamo) and on the funerary offerings (MAGI). By its extensive size, it allows comparative approaches on some of the recurrent issues encountered in the interpretation: reuses, proofing, typologies and choice of the raw materials used, content-container associations, …

 A critical analysis of the literature, both on the biomarkers and on the aromatic and perfume plants registered in the literary sources of the Iron and Classical Ages in the Mediterranean will be performed to produce a status of the markers (robust, ambiguous or missing) for each of the candidate species and keys to their possible interpretation in the studied contexts.

The first case publications of the findings of these programs since 2003 will be re-examined in the light of the experience acquired since and of the advancement of the tools and methodologies in the field of archaeological organic analyses.

Foodstuffs, Dairy products, Fermented beverages, Medicinal and Cosmetic products, Perfumes, Aromatic materials in the Mediterranean and West-European areas. This scientific notebook presents the bioarchaeology research programs of the Temos laboratory (CNRS, UMR 9016).

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