New Article in the Journal of Archaeological Science

I’m a co-author on a recent paper by Aubert et al. in the Journal of Archaeological Science on using a SHRIMP II to do in-situ oxygen isotope analysis on a range of archaeological materials including Neanderthal and herbivore enamel as well as fish otoliths.

The complete abstract is:
 A Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe (SHRIMP II) has been used to make high spatial resolution insitu micro-analyses of oxygen isotopes in fish otoliths, and teeth from fossil herbivores and a Neanderthal.  Large intra-tooth variations in the oxygen isotopic composition (up to 9‰) were observed in the enamel of herbivores from the Neanderthal fossil site of Payre, consistent with preservation of seasonal cyclicity. The range of isotopic compositions observed in Neanderthal tooth enamel was much smaller (∼3‰), possibly the result of a longer enamel maturation time averaging out variability. An archaeological otolith from a Preceramic site in Northern Peru exhibited marked changes in δ18O over life, due either to the fish occasionally migrating from the sea to a lower salinity habitat, or to short-lived rises in sea water temperature. A fish otolith from Australia’s Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area showed clear seasonal variations, but also a general trend towards isotopically heavier and more saline water, as indicated by higher δ18O and Sr/Ca values resulting from increased evaporation. The results of these case studies are compared to results of oxygen isotope analysis using more conventional methods and demonstrate the ability of the SHRIMP II to provide precise high spatial resolution in-situ oxygen isotope analyses of a variety of biogenic materials. This approach has major advantages over conventional methods. It can provide rapid, micro-scale isotopic analyses of sub-permil precision without the need for chemical preparation of the sample.

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