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date: 18 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Stable isotope analyses of skeletal remains have become increasingly important within the field of archaeology during the past few decades. Given that the analyses can (under certain circumstances) provide direct data at the individual level regarding, for example, subsistence, actual consumption of specific foodstuffs, the transition from foraging to farming, breastfeeding patterns, mobility, migration, and contact with other groups, this is not surprising. This chapter provides an overview of the kind of archaeological issues that can be addressed with the use of stable isotope analyses, based on four of the most commonly used light elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulphur), with an emphasis on carbon and nitrogen. The applications are illustrated with examples from various parts of the world, ranging in date from the Pleistocene to the medieval period. It also deals with how and why the analyses work, and raises some methodological limitations and potential pitfalls.

Keywords: stable isotope analysis, individual, diet, mobility, life history, ecology

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