You can’t handle the tooth: three stories on improving our understanding of the isotopic variation in archaeological samples

Date & time

4–5pm 2 October 2018


Jaeger 1 Seminar Room, RSES


Ms Hannah James (RSES)

Event series


 Antony Burnham

Isotopic analysis of human remains has become a key scientific technique employed to gather direct evidence of the diet and mobility of past populations. Geographical variation in the isotopic values for two elements, oxygen and strontium, provide a basis for measuring human mobility between regions with differing isotopic values. Teeth act as time capsules locking in these isotopic signatures from the food and water consumed during childhood, so they are the target of analysis in this study.

In this talk three stories will be presented, which will highlight the need to better understand isotopic variation on a micro and macro scale; from the variation within a single human tooth to isotopic variation across an entire island. Data from modern environmental samples (soil and plant samples run on MC-ICP-MS), and modern tooth analysis (on the SHRIMP, Laser Ablation ICP-MS, and TIMS) and will presented as tools for understanding isotopic data collected from archaeological sites on Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea (Campu Stefanu ~9,000 years ago), Vanuatu in the south Pacific (Teouma ~3,000 years ago), and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean (L’Anse Sainte Marguerite cemetery 1700s - 1848).

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