Skip to main content Accessibility help

Investigating population movement by stable isotope analysis: a report from Britain

  • Paul Budd (a1), Andrew Millard (a1), Carolyn Chenery (a2), Sam Lucy (a1) and Charlotte Roberts (a1)...


Stable isotopes present in local ground water get into people's teeth before they are 12 years old, and act as a signature to the area where they grew up (and drank the water). In a review of recent work in Britain the authors show the huge potential of this method for detecting population movement – and thus ultimately for investigating questions of migration, exogamy and slavery.



Hide All
Aitken, E., & Arwidsson, G. 1986. Fingerringe. In Arwidsson, G. (ed.): Birka II:2 Systematische Analysem der Gräberfunde. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International.
Biddle, M., Blunt, C., Kjølbye-Biddle, B., Metcalf, M. & Pagan, H. 1986. Coins of the Anglo-Saxon period from Repton, Derbyshire: II. The British Numismatic Journal 56:1534.
Biddle, M., & Kjølbye-Biddle, B. 1992. Repton and the Vikings. Antiquity 66: 3651.
Biddle, M., & Kjølbye-Biddle, B. 2001. Repton and the ‘great heathen army’ 873–874. In Graham-Campbell, J., Hall, R., Jesch, J. & Parsons, D.N. (eds.): Vikings and the Danelaw. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
Blum, J.D., Taliaferro, E.H., Weisse, M.T. & Holmes, R.T. 2000. Changes in Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca and 87Sr/ 86Sr ratios between two forest ecosystems in the northeastern U.S.A. Biogeochemistry 49:87101.
Bryant, J.D., & Froelich, P.N. 1996. Oxygen Isotope Composition of Human Tooth Enamel from Medieval Greenland: Linking Climate with Society: Comment. Geology 24:477478.
Budd, P., Chenery, C., Montgomery, J. & Evans, J. (2003a) You are where you ate. Isotopie analysis in the reconstruction of prehistoric residency. In Parker-Pearson, M. (ed.): Food, Identity and Culture in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. oxford: Archaeopress, BAR Int. Series 117: 6978.
Budd, P., Chenery, C., Montgomery, J., Evans, J. & Powlesland, D. 2003b. Anglo-Saxon residential mobility at West Heslerton, North Yorkshire, UK from combined O- and Sr-isotope analysis. In Tanner, S. and Holland, J.G. (eds.): Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry: Applications and Emerging Technologies. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry: 195208.
Budd, P., Montgomery, J., Barreiro, B. & Thomas, R.G. 2000a. Differential diagenesis of strontium in archaeological human dental tissues. Applied Geochemistry 15:687694.
Budd, P., Montgomery, J., Evans, J. & Barreiro, B. 2000b. Human tooth enamel as a record of the comparative lead exposure of prehistoric and modern people. The Science of the Total Environment 263: 110.
Budd, P., Montgomery, J., Evans, J. & Chenery, C. 2001. Combined Pb-, Sr- and O-isotope analysis of human dental tissue for the reconstruction of archaeological residential mobility. In Holland, JG and Tanner, SD (eds.): Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry: The New Millennium. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry Special Publication: 311326.
Capo, R.C., Stewart, B.W. & Chadwick, O.A. 1998. Strontium isotopes as tracers of ecosystems processes: theory and methods. Geoderma 82:197225.
Chiaradia, M., Gallay, A. & Todt, W. 2003. Different contamination styles of prehistoric human teeth at a Swiss necropolis (Sion, Valais) inferred from lead and strontium isotopes. Applied Geochemistry 18:353370.
Cowling, S.A., Sykes, M.T. & Bradshaw, R. 2001. Palaeovegetation-model comparisons, climate change and tree succession in Scandinavia over the past 1500 years. Journal of Ecology 89:227236.
D’Angela, D. & Longinelli, A. 1990. Oxygen Isotopes in Living Mammal’s Bone Phosphate: Further Results. Chemical Geology (Isotope Geosciences Section) 86:7582.
Darling, W.G., Talbot, J.C. & Brownless, M.A. 1999. The stable isotopic content of rainfall and groundwaters in the British Isles. IAEA-SM–336/24P.
Darling, W.G., Bath, A.H. & Talbot, J.C. 2003a. The O & H stable isotopic composition of fresh waters in the British Isles: 2, surface waters and groundwater. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 7: 183195.
Darling, W.G. & Talbot, J.C. 2003b. The O & H stable isotopic composition of fresh waters in the British Isles: 1, Rainfall. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 7: 163181.
Ericson, J.E. 1985. Strontium Isotope Characterization in the Study of Prehistoric Human Ecology. Journal of Human Evolution 14:503514.
Faure, G. 1986. Principles of Isotope Geology. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Haas, H.C. 1996. Northern Europe climate variation during the late Holocene: evidence from marine Skagerrak. Palaeogeoggraphy, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 123:121145.
Haughton, C. & Powlesland, D. 1999. The West Heslerton Anglian Cemetery – Volume I. Yedingham, North Yorkshire: The Landscape Research Centre.
Lamb, H.H. 1982. Climate History and the Modern World. London: Methuen.
Levinson, A.A., Luz, B. & Kolodny, Y. 1987. Variations in Oxygen Isotope Compositions of Human Teeth and Urinary Stones. Applied Geochemistry 2:367371.
Longinelli, A. 1984. Oxygen Isotopes in Mammal Bone Phosphate: A New Tool for Paleohydrological and Paleoclimatological Research? Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 48:385390.
Luz, B., Cormie, A.B. & Schwarcz, H.P. 1990. oxygen isotope variations in phosphate of deer bones. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 54:17231728.
Luz, B. & Kolodny, Y. 1985. Oxygen isotope variations in phosphate of biogenic apatites, IV Mammal bones and teeth. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 75:2936.
Luz, B., Kolodny, Y. & Horowitz, M. 1984. Fractionation of Oxygen Isotopes between Mammalian Bone-phosphate and Environmental Drinking Water. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 48:16891693.
Martin, C.E. & McCulloch, M.T. 1999. Nd-Sr isotopic and trace element geochemistry of river sediments and soils in a fertilized catchment, New South Wales, Australia. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 63:285303.
Montgomery, J., Budd, P. & Evans, J. 2000. Reconstructing the lifetime movements of ancient people: a Neolithic case study from southern England. European Journal of Archaeology 3: 370385.
Price, T.D., Burton, J.H. & Bentley, R.A. 2002. The characterisation of biologically available strontium isotope ratios for the study of prehistoric migration. Archaeometry 44:117135.
Roberts, C.A. 1995. Treponematosis in Gloucester, England: A Theoretical and Practical Approach to the Pre-Columbian Theory: The Origin of Syphilis in Europe. Actes du Colloque International de Toulon: 101108.
Roesdhal, E. 1977. Fyrkat. En jysk Vikingeborg, II, Oldsagerne og gravpladsen. Copenhagen: Det kongelike nordiske Oldskriftselskat.
Sillen, A., Hall, G., Richardson, S. & Armstrong, R. 1998. 87Sr/86Sr ratios in modern and fossil food-webs of the Sterkfontein Valley: Implications for early hominid habitat preference. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 62:24632473.
Trickett, M., Budd, P., Montgomery, J. & Evans, J. 2003. An assessment of solubility profiling as a decontamination procedure for the 87Sr/86Sr analysis of archaeological human tissue. Applied Geochemistry 18:653658.
White, C.D., Spence, M.W., Stuart-Williams, H.L.Q. & Schwarcz, H.P. 1998. Oxygen isotopes and the identification of geographical origins: the Valley of Oaxaca versus the Valley of Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science 25:643655.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Investigating population movement by stable isotope analysis: a report from Britain

  • Paul Budd (a1), Andrew Millard (a1), Carolyn Chenery (a2), Sam Lucy (a1) and Charlotte Roberts (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.