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Durham University

Durham Geochemistry Centre


We have collaborative research programmes in the chemical and isotopic tracing of Archaeological artefacts and population dynamics of former communities.

Current research interests include:

On-going collaborative research projects with members the Departments of Archaeology (Prof C. Roberts, Dr. J Montgomery, Dr A Millard) and Anthropology (Dr Alex Bentley (now at Bristol), Dr U Strand-Vidarsdottir and C. King (PhD student)) that are based around Sr isotope analysis of human teeth. These studies exploit the concept that the isotopic composition of teeth reflect the geological environment of habitation and, when used in conjunction with O isotope studies, permit reconstruction of past population dynamics.

We are currently using our expertise in micro-sampling methods and high precision TIMS analysis to provide extremely high spatial and compositional resolution Sr isotope data on tooth enamel from individual human teeth as part of a collaboration with Dr J Montgomery and J Beaumont (PhD student) of the Dept of Archaeology. The data quality far exceeds what others have obtained by laser ablation and it is now shedding a new light on the isotopic heterogeneity of human teeth and the complex way in which they mineralise.  This in turn has big implications for how to sample teeth for past population dynamics studies.

We are also working with Prof. Graham Philip from the department of Archaeology, using Pb isotopes to trace copper artefacts from a 4th millennium BC site in Northern Jordan.