Nicolas Garnier

Fallen into chemistry from an early age, I quickly specialized in the world of living, organic synthesis and then organic analysis. Prizes at the national and international Chemistry Olympiads (1993 and 1994) encouraged me to present the competitions of the chemistry schools. My entry to the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris allowed me to realize a dream: to study chemistry, but also ancient history, archaeology, and… etruscology (but also Italian, Arabic, ballroom dancing and lyric singing !). My first theses already focused on the chemistry of perfumes, the synthesis of triterpenoid markers of natural products, leading to a thesis on amphora content.

Organic analysis is the thread of my career. The knowledge accumulated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris allowed me to develop a strong critical look at research in archaeometry, challenging « established » knowledges used from decades both in chemistry and archaeology (as the pitch reserved only for wine amphora, or the single-use amphorae), and developing new efficient methods, adapted to the searched markers and to the archaeological problematics, objects, and contexts.

LNG… After my PhD in Spectrochemistry at the Paris VI University, I created my own private laboratory (LNG), expanding my teenage lab for organic synthesis and squatting the garage of the house. The first cumbersome equipment quickly forced me to create a real laboratory: laboratory for the preparation of samples, microscopy, GC, then GC-MS, Raman microspectrometry, XRF, LC and then LC-MS and high resolution MS. The actual laboratory has all its techniques, that allows me to test and develop new protocols efficient for the good extraction, purification, and analysis of markers from plethora of organic materials: oils, fats, resins, waxes, fruits, fermented beverages and foodstuffs, drugs, alkaloids… all that is drunk, eaten, smoked, anointed or swallowed, from food to medicine or magical preparations. 

In the field of archaeology, I mainly work with institutional and private teams in France, in the Mediterranean basin (Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan), in Atlantic Coast (from Portugal to Norway), and Central Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Austria). The analytical capabilities are not limited to periods, but rather to knowledge of the chemistry of a given natural material. This knowledge hinges on the literary in phytochemistry, pharmacognosy, biogeochemistry, food chemistry, and takes in account the chemical processes of decay of the organic material according the contexts. Unfortunately, the implementation of high-resolution mass spectrometry reveals many errors in the published literary, requiring all data to be controlled from authenticated biological materials. The closed collaboration with archaeobotanists (Elisabeth Dodinet), archaeologists doing experimental archaeology (Noémie Ledouble, Elizabeth Morrison) is the key for a future secure and rigorous research in archaeology.

As researcher, I’m associated to the AOROC team from the ENS-Paris UMR CNRS 8546 and, for chemistry, to the MSAP laboratory, CNRS UR 3290. I have been involved in several projects dealing with archaeological perfumes (Perhamo), offerings and rituals (MAGI), analysis of wall- and easel- paintings (ProtéoArt, LeadART), handicraft in Campania (Artifex), dyes (Textan), and in actual ones such as Wine Story for fermented beverages (CNRS-INRAE), Altheré for drugs and medicines (PCR Val de Loire), and FoodImpac for urban food culture in medieval Norway (Research Council of Norway)… A large part of the research is assumed internally by the LNG as the elaboration of databases (mass spectra, chemical compositions) from actual botanical materials or recipes, from fruits and their fermented derivatives, from fish and garum, from dairy products… and the development and optimization of protocols, the basis of any effective research.

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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