Charred organic remains are ubiquitous in the archaeological and fossil record and are often used to interpret past environments and climate. This study focuses on the physical and chemical alteration that takes place during heating (i.e. charring). Modifications to the internal and external morphology were noted alongside the change in molecular and stable carbon isotope signature. Molecular analyses were undertaken using direct temperature resolved mass spectrometry and the stable carbon isotopes determined using isotope ratio mass spectrometry. The results of this study document a general enrichment in 13C/12C composition of charred material which could reflect the changes observed in both the molecular composition and the relative proportions of the molecules formed. These results indicate that spurious results might be inferred when comparing the stable carbon isotope signature of charred/charcoalified material with uncharred organic matter.

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Journal Org. Geochem.
Poole, I, Braadbaart, F, Boon, J. J, & van Bergen, P. F. (2002). Stable carbon isotope changes during artificial charring of propagules. Org. Geochem., 33, 1675–1681. doi:10.1016/s0146-6380(02)00173-0