Judith Clare Sealy

Grant Type

Workshop Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cape Town, U. of

Grant number

Gr. CONF-944

Approve Date

September 5, 2023

Project Title

Sealy, Judith (Cape Town, U. of) "Strontium Isoscapes for Mobility and Migration: the way forward"

This workshop aims to develop best practice in the use of strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) to trace provenience and (palaeo)mobility. This is a powerful, increasingly widely used approach in archaeology, palaeoanthropology, biological anthropology, forensics and related fields. 87Sr/86Sr in rocks is a well-established geological dating method. 87Sr derives from 87Rb via radioactive decay, while 86Sr is constant. 87Sr/86Sr is therefore higher in older rocks, especially those rich in Rb. Humans and animals incorporate into their tissues the 87Sr/86Sr of the area/s where they lived and obtained food, providing a natural tracer of movement across geological boundaries. Applications include reconstruction of (palaeo)mobility, e.g. in conjunction with ancient DNA to assess the spread of farming. This requires significant method development, especially mapping variation in 87Sr/86Sr at landscape scales (“isoscapes”) based on underlying geology and strontium inputs from sources such as windblown dust and sea-spray. At present, researchers approach these challenges in different, often ad hoc ways, resulting in inconsistency and potential inaccuracy. In this workshop, a group of leading experts and early career scholars will explore these issues and chart the way forward, training the next generation of practitioners and leading to significant advances across several sub-fields of anthropology.