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Isotope Analysis

  • Mary E. Malainey
Chapter
Part of the Manuals in Archaeological Method, Theory and Technique book series (MATT)

Abstract

Isotope analysis is a highly versatile technique that uses the ratio of two non-radioactive isotopes of an element within a sample to provide insights about the conditions under which it formed. This is possible because certain biochemical and geochemical processes favor one isotope, usually the lighter one, over the other. This results in measurable differences between the isotopic composition of the initial reactants (e.g., the food an animal consumes) and the resulting products (e.g., animal tissue formed from food components). The technique can be applied to a wide variety of materials including the remains of plants and animals, organic residues, metals, rocks, and minerals. Depending upon the sample and isotopes measured, information can be gained about diverse issues ranging from the diet and mobility patterns of an animal, global climate change, and the source of building material. Interpretations may be based on the value of one or more ratios of isotopes of the same element or the isotope ratios measured on more than one element.

Keywords

Oxygen Isotope Isotopic Fractionation Lead Isotope Tooth Enamel Bone Collagen 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary E. Malainey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBrandon UniversityBrandonCanada

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