International Joint Research Group: Brussels-Oxford Network for the study of bioapatite as a poorly exploited archive of ancient diet, ecology and migration of human and faunal fossils

Project Details


When studying archaeological and palaeontological remains, we are often faced with diagenitically altered specimen due to extensive burial. Understanding these diagenetic alterations is crucial to ensure that the isotopic information extracted from these remains actually reflect endogenous signals. The Brussels-Oxford NEtwork for the study of bioapatite aims at fully understanding diagenetic effects before isotopic analyses are carried out, leading to high quality palaeodietary and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions on fossil bones and teeth. Too often, bioapatite diagenesis has been studied in isolated situations. By combining the expertizes of BIGE (AMGC from VUB and G-TIME from ULB) and RLAHA (at Oxford), it will be possible to broaden the study of bioapatite diagenesis to a wide range of conditions and timescales and obtain much more reliable palaeodietary and palaeoenvironmental reconstructions. Furthermore, for the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art (RLAHA), University of Oxford, access to analytical facilities, such as ICP-MS, is not straightforward, while these are widely available to the members of the Brussels Institute for Geochemical Techniques in Earth Sciences (BIGE) joining the Analytical, Environmental and Geo-chemistry Research Unit (AMGC) of the VUB and the Geochemistry: Isotopic, Mineral and Elemental Tracing Research Unit (G-TIME) of the ULB. Moreover a new IR spectroscopy and microscopy system has just been installed in AMGC (Hercules 2016) to examine bones and teeth remains at the micro-scale and select the least altered zones for isotopic analyses. In parallel, access to archaeological remains and archaeological expertise on human and animal remains is gradually growing at the VUB and ULB, while RLAHA already possesses both access to samples and high expertise in the field of bioarchaeology, as well as an established reputation. Furthermore, RLAHA is specialized in the extraction and isotopic analysis of collagen from bone and teeth, as well as radiocarbon dating, methods currently unavailable at BIGE that complements perfectly the analyses of bone and teeth carbonates and phosphates routinely measured at AMGC and the strontium isotope analyses carried out at G-TIME.
Short title or EU acronymIJRG BONE
Effective start/end date29/03/1727/03/26


  • Bioarchaeology
  • Stable isotope
  • Population migration
  • Isotopic tracers
  • Cremated bones
  • Bone & tooth archives
  • Palaeoecology
  • Palaeodiet


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