Research Focus - Isotope analysis: diet, migration and climate
Pleistocene Horse Mandible from England. We sample the enamel from teeth such as these, as well as bone, in order to measure the oxygen isotope ratios for information on past climates as well as animal movements.
In addition to palaeodietary studies of hominid and faunal bone and teeth proteins, we also undertake analysis of the isotopes of other elements, mainly found in the inorganic fractions of bone and teeth (e.g. oxygen, strontium). This analysis is undertaken for two reasons. Firstly, the oxygen values of teeth (and bone) reflect the local drinking water δ18O values, and therefore it is possible to use these values as a palaeoclimatic indicator. Additionally, if these δ18O values are measured in tissues that grow incrementally, such as teeth or antlers, they can be used to look at the movement/migration patterns of mammals. This is also what the isotopic ratios of elements such as strontium, found in bone and teeth mineral, and sulphur, found in protein, can tell us.
Currently, our main focus is on the oxygen analysis of fauna from the UK, as part of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project (link), for palaeoclimate and migration studies. Also, we are researching sulphur isotopes in archaeological humans and fauna as new tool for migration studies.