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

Project Details


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 multisampling 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.
Effective start/end date1/11/2231/10/26


  • Incremental Isotopic Analysis
  • Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition
  • Diet and Mobility

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Archaeology of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Levant
  • Archaeology of foods and diets
  • Prehistoric archaeology
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Biogeochemistry


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