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Research Focus

Research Focus - Isotope analysis: diet, migration and climate


Palaeodietary research

fish marketWe extract proteins from human/hominid and faunal tissues (mainly bone) and measure the stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen (and increasingly sulphur) in order to reconstruct the past diets of the humans/hominids.

Our main focus is on Palaeolithic hominid dietary adaptations, and how they evolved/changed through time. Our current main research focus is the characterisation of Neanderthal and modern human diets in Eurasia. We have also looked at the diet shifts associated with the adoption of agriculture in Europe (Mesolithic/Neolithic transition) and also have interests in the application of this method to other archaeological time periods.

blowfishOur research into hominid dietary evolution through isotopic analysis is hindered in that collagen, the main protein we extract for analysis, does not survive beyond approximately 100,000 years. Therefore, we are researching ways of extracting proteins from samples older than 100,000 years, characterising them, and then undertaking isotopic analysis on them (including the analysis of single amino acids).

This research group also includes researchers from the Department of Archaeology, Durham University, Durham, U.K.

Relevant publications, including some available as PDF’s are here.