Ancient Protein Conference 2018 – Copenhagen

August was conference month for team TUBA. While Rhys gallivanted around Belfast at the European Meeting on Forensic Archaeology, Gillian, Caroline and I travelled over to Copenhagen for the Ancient Protein Workshop. The event has been held every twenty years so far, and it was a great opportunity to be able to attend as the field has seen some massive development in the last few years.

Clear skies outside the conference venue in Copenhagen.

The workshop was located in the University of Copenhagen and the Botanical Gardens. The venue was beautiful, and with the nice warm weather we were able to sit outside in the gardens between sessions. The first day began with a ZooMS workshop where the application of peptide fingerprinting by mass spectrometry was discussed, which can allow archaeologists to identify animal species in cases where more traditional methods have been unsuccessful. One of the main areas this technique has been applied in archaeology is in relation to the sheep/goat problem in zooarchaeology, but differentiating between the two can be very difficult, and is integral to properly understand past farming strategies. Use of the technique to screen for hominin bone fragments at prehistoric sites was also discussed, and was recently applied to identify the offspring of a Neanderthal and Denisovan hominin among thousands of animal bones!

Delegates at the workshop, extra points if you can find us. Photo  from the event photo album.

After the ZooMS session we were offered snacks and drinks at the event reception, where Gillian and Caroline finally joined us after miraculously catching their connection flight with 30 minutes’ layover time and taking a few laps around the venue searching for us. As there is not exactly a great amount of individuals who partake in archaeological protein analysis as a discipline, it was brilliant to find that no less than three classmates from leather school were present. Including myself, both Luise Brandt and Lucy Skinner were at the protein conference and it was absolutely great to properly geek out on the topic of leather protein, which I can’t say has been a hit in other social situations…

We enjoyed a lovely conference dinner at the Carlsberg foundation, where Gillian, Caroline and I secured front row seats to the podium. Photo  from the event photo album.

The next three days were filled with palaeoproteomic talks, fieldtrips to the lab facilities at the University of Copenhagen, a conference dinner and encounters with brilliant and inspiring people from all over. The themes covered included palaeoproteomics in art conservation, amino acid racemization, research into dairying, archaeological artefact applications and new developments and challenges in the field. All of the sessions were great, with my particular favourites being the amino acid racemization sessoin and the methodological and biometric discussions. Most days left me itching to get started on the palaeoproteomic part of my own research and I can’t say I’m short for ideas at the moment. I will be starting the proteomic part of my PhD on the Vindolanda leather in the next few months and it was absolutely brilliant to be able to attend this conference first. I have a much clearer idea of the problems I need to consider at different stages of the analyses, where I can seek help and what methods I can use to counter any problems.

View over Copenhagen.

It was great to see how the overarching theme of almost every session at the conference was cooperation, knowledge- and data sharing. For a quickly growing field like palaeoproteomics, with a relatively small pool of researchers, it made for a very friendly and optimistic atmosphere at the conference.

End-of-conference panel discussion was optimistic and full of great advice.

But enough on proteins (although, is there ever enough?)! Let’s not forget the conference took place in Copenhagen, or what I like to refer to as the promised land. We were lucky enough to be able to stay for two more days in the city, and with a flat location right in the middle of Norrebro it was also a culinary dream.

Hund is snor, lort i pose!

While Gillian and Caroline were good tourists, visiting the mandatory attractions (although they technically only made it to the National Museum and Lego store), it was taco hour for me, and I managed tacos at Hija de Sanchez, La Neta and Restaurant Sanchez. I’d call that great success and the last one of those completely blew my mind, I can still taste that velvety chicken taco. Yum!!

Living that good life.

 I also visited Bœst, an organic Italian restaurant that have their own farm (!), where I had the dreamiest burrata of my entire life, and took a daily trip to Torvehallerne for a dose of Coffee Collective coffee, some Bahn mi or fancy porridge at Grød. That last place is one of my favourites, a brunch place serving only porridge! If you know me at all you’ll know I can’t live without it, but I’ll be the first one to admit it is absolutely hilarious to see a bunch of hip, young Danes and entire families huddled around something as bland as a bowl of porridge.

Gillian and Caroline found the rarely seen lego-Gillian in Copenhagen.

Being dreadfully Scandinavian, I of course took time to hoard some Danish candy, as my recommended daily intake of salmiak has been completely neglected since moving to England. I even tried a new and intriguing brand that did not disappoint, BonBon’s kloak slam, or sewage sludge, in delicious looking orange packaging. I’m already expecting a new Amazon delivery of this little piece of heaven through the letterbox at home.

Nectar of the gods. Also known as sewage sludge. The rat is particularly appetising.

On top of this, the weather was amazing, so I was able to trot around Assistens Kirkegard with ice cream (My second favourite meal after porridge)! I even attempted to spruce up my Danish skills, and was happy to see that I can still manage some very basic communication – all the essentials like ‘hi’, ‘bye’, ‘thank you’ and ‘your dog is very cute’ – and was even complemented for my ability to ask for ‘dagens sild’ (fresh herring) on my smørrebrød! However, I wasn’t able to answer the compliment with anything other than an awkward smile and a thumbs up, pinning my non-Danish feet straight back to the ground. Lordie, I can’t wait to visit this Utopia again!

Smørrebrod med dagens sild, œg og rejer and roastbeef. For me, nothing screams family event like these do. Who’s graduated??

 

Thanks for reading!

Helga

 

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