Environmental tracer analysis

Strontium isotope biosphere domains of Britain

Research in the geochronology and tracers facility is focused mainly on the use of the heavy isotopes of strontium (Sr) and lead (Pb), in conjunction with oxygen (O) and sulphur (S), to study movement, migration and traceability. We undertake a mixture of projects types, including collaborative supervision of PhD projects, research-grant awards, steering-committee awards and commercial projects.

Isotope studies in biosphere traceability

Isotope variations can be used to trace migration and movement, provenance material and provide a geochemical 'fingerprint' for products.

  • Sr isotopes are used to limit the possible origins of flora and fauna though the food chain. The nature and origin of the soil supplies plants with distinctive isotope characteristics.
  • Pb isotopes provide a tracking mechanism for pollution in both modern and historic times.
  • S provides data on the proximity and use of marine resources.
  • O isotopes monitor climate, drinking water and human mediation of water.
  • Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) provide data on the photosynthetic characteristics of ingested plants and food-chain hierarchy.

Recent publications

Evans, J A, Pashley, V, Richards, G J, Brereton, N, and Knowles, T G.  2015.  Geogenic lead isotope signatures from meat products in Great Britain: Potential for use in food authentication and supply chain traceability.  Science of the Total Environment 537: 447–452.

Ma, H, Henderson, J, and Evans, J.  2014.  The exploration of Sr isotopic analysis applied to Chinese glazes: part one.  Journal of Archaeological Science 50: 551–558.

Lamb, A L, Evans, J E, Buckley, R, and Appleby, J.  2014.  Multi-isotope analysis demonstrates significant lifestyle changes in King Richard III.  Journal of Archaeological Science 50: 559–565.

Miller, H, Carden, R F, Evans, J, Lamb, A, Madgwick, R, Osborne, D, Symmons, R, and Sykes, N.  2014.  Dead or alive? Investigating long-distance transport of live fallow deer and their body parts in antiquity.  Environmental Archaeology.

Bogaard, A, Henton, E, Evans, J A, Twiss, K C, Charles, M P, Vaiglova, P, and Russell, N.  2014.  Locating land use at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey; The implications of 87Sr/86Sr signatures in plants and sheep tooth sequences.  Archaeometry 56(5): 860–877.


Please contact Jane Evans for further information.