The Truth in the Tooth: Reconstructing and Comparing Human Life Histories in the Mesolithic and Neolithic of Europe

Activity: OtherWritten proposal


Isotopic analyses have cemented themselves as an important tool within the archaeological field. Their application to human remains has revolutionised our understanding of the diets and migration patterns of past populations, especially those dating to the European Mesolithic and Neolithic, where no written record is available. However, methodologies are confined to certain limiting parameters. Most notably, it is the common representation of an individual’s isotopic record from a singular sample, and, as such, a unique moment in their lives. This limitation implies that diet and geographic inhabitancy is consistent through life, and consequently, is unable to detect variations in consumption or mobility that would be expected over a lifetime.

To overcome these constraints, this project utilises and refines multi-sampling techniques applied to human teeth and bone, enabling changes in isotopic (C, N, O, Sr) values to be mapped over a sequenced period of life. Incremental sampling of teeth enables the tracking of serial isotopic values at a high resolution, which, when combined with microscopy and µCT, will create detailed biographical accounts of individual diets and mobility patterns. Together, these techniques will be applied to Mesolithic and Neolithic individuals from important multi-period sites. This will not only reconstruct life histories during these periods, but reveal how life in Europe may have altered with the sociocultural transition to the Neolithic.
Period28 Feb 2022
Held atFWO Aspirant, Belgium