Using isotopes to track past human migrations
15:00 - 16:30
Simon Fraser University, Department of Archaeology
MPI SHH Jena
Isotope analysis of human and animal bone and teeth can be used to determine their geographic origin, and how they moved over their lifetimes. In contrast to DNA and linguistic analysis, which can determine origins and migrations over generations, isotope analysis has the promise of being able to identify movements of individuals at different points of their lives. The method has it’s limitations, but can be used to address both larger archaeological questions of past population movements and also provide a glimpse into the life histories of individual skeletons. In this talk I will introduce the methods we use for this analysis (strontium and sulphur isotope analysis) and then provide examples of how we have applied this method to look for human migration and movements in a variety of current and unpublished case studies. These will include studies of Neanderthal mobility, identifying possible pilgrims at the Roman and Byzantine world heritage sites of Hierapolis and Ephesus in Turkey, and the results of a large-scale isotopic study of Minoans and Mycenaeans in Bronze age Greece.