Reconstructing life histories using serial carbon, oxygen, and strontium isotope variation in human dental enamel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


The application of strontium (Sr) isotopic analysis to bulk human dental enamel is an established technique used to assess mobility. However, conventional Sr bulk analysis provides only a single averaged datapoint, which hinder our ability to investigate mobility patterns at high resolution. In recent years, researchers have attempted to tackle this issue by constructing incremental sampling milling protocols, which enable the tracking of Sr isotopic variations over an individual’s early life. Whilst these hand-milling methodologies significantly increase our interpretations of residency biographies, they are currently limited in the number of increments one can remove, in comparison to their application on faunal specimens and in-situ analysis. As such, there is a requirement to continue adapting these techniques, increasing the number of viable increments sampled, to improve the resolution of mobility life-histories observable in human teeth.

This study presents an expanded incremental technique for human tooth enamel, revealing variations in strontium isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) and elemental concentrations, in combination with carbon (δ13C), oxygen (δ18O) isotopic values, to be observed at a high-resolution during the tooth enamel formation period. This technique uses thin sections of enamel to guide the milling of incremental samples. Preliminary results from a collection of recently excavated human teeth reveals a promising indication that enamel increments can be successfully sampled along a human tooth enamel growth axis. However, the growth pattern of human tooth enamel, and the volume of powdered enamel required for analysis, limits the number of increments that can be milled in a resolvable time series. As such, this presentation will discuss the potential as well as the limitations of this technique, providing a plan of how to we will increase the resolution of the methodology in future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication28th EAA Annual Meeting (Budapest, Hungary)
Subtitle of host publicationSession 378: Moving beyond the Fact of Mobility? Re-evaluating the Strengths and Limitations of Strontium Isotope Analyses in Archaeology.
PublisherEuropean Association of Archaeologists
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022
Event28th EAA Annual Meeting (Budapest, Hungary) - Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 31 Aug 20223 Sep 2022


Conference28th EAA Annual Meeting (Budapest, Hungary)


  • Strontium
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Tooth enamel


Dive into the research topics of 'Reconstructing life histories using serial carbon, oxygen, and strontium isotope variation in human dental enamel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this