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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Dr Geoff Nowell

R. Alexander Bentley, Hallie R. Buckley, Matthew Spriggs, Stuart Bedford, Chris J. Ottley, Geoff M. Nowell, Colin G. Macpherson & D. Graham Pearson (2007). LAPITA MIGRANTS IN THE PACIFIC’S OLDEST CEMETERY:ISOTOPIC ANALYSIS AT TEOUMA, VANUATU. American Antiquity 72: 645-656.
  • Publication type: Journal Article

Author(s) from Durham


Teouma, an archaeological site on Efate Island, Vanuatu, features the earliest cemetery yet discovered of the colonizers of Remote Oceania, from the late second millennium B.C. In order to investigate potential migration of seventeen human individuals, we measured isotopes of strontium (87Sr/86Sr), oxygen (d18O), and carbon (d13C), as well as barium (Ba) and strontium (Sr) concentrations, in tooth enamel from skeletons excavated in the first two field seasons. The majority of individuals cluster with similar isotope and Ba/Sr ratios, consistent with a diet of marine resources supplemented with plants grown on the local basaltic soils. Four outliers, with distinctive 87Sr/86Sr and d18O, are probably immigrants, three of which were buried in a distinctive position (supine, with the head to the south) with higher Ba/Sr and d13C, consistent with a terrestrial, nonlocal diet. Among the probable immigrants was a male buried with the crania of three of the locally raised individuals on his chest.