nl en

Isotope Archaeology


Admission requirements

  • This is a seminar with a limited number of participants (20 students), for Archaeology students exclusively;

  • BA3 students who want to take this course: please contact the Administration Office. You can only be admitted if there are spots left, BA2 students will have priority.


This course deals with the wide ranges of applications of isotope data that are relevant to archaeological research. These vary from the research in the origin of peoples, mobility/exchange patterns, diet, climate change and environmental reconstruction.
The potentials and limitations of various types of isotope analyses and data will be explored.

Course set-up

Two-hour introductory lecture, followed by one hour discussion, and then one hour of independent study.

Course objectives

  • Basic knowledge of the theoretical background of different methods applied in isotope research;

  • Knowledge of the wide range of applications of isotopic data in archaeological research;

  • Awareness of the potentials as well as the limitations of the different isotopic methods.


Course schedule details can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button.

Mode of instruction

  • Weekly lectures;

  • Weekly discussions.

Assessment method

  • Weekly written assignments (6x) (30%);

  • Essay on one of the techniques addressed in the case studies, including finding additional literature (70%).

If you fail the final paper essay, there is an opportunity for a retake of the final essay only. Assignments cannot be retaken.

Assessment deadlines

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button. To view the assessment deadline(s), make sure to select the course with a code ending in T and/or R.

The individual weekly assignments are due before that week’s lecture.

Reading list

Assigned readings (subject to change):

General Introduction
Overview: Makarewicz & Sealy 2015 "Journal of Archaeological Science 56": 146-158 (9 pgs.)

Isotopes and Paleo-Diet Stable Isotopes and Diet: Lee-Thorp 2008 "Archaeometry 50": 925-950 (20 pgs.)

Isotopes and Paleo-Mobility Sr and Mobility: Slovak & Paytan 2011 "Advances in Isotope Geochemistry". 743-768 (22 pgs.)

Isotopes and Paleo-Ecology
Climate: Fricke et al 1995 "Geology Special Reports 23": 869-872 (4 pgs.)
Climate: Curtis et al. 1996 "Quaternary Research 46": 37-47 (10 pgs.)

Isotopes and Material Analysis
Materials: Degryse & Schneider 2008 "Journal of Archaeological Science 35": 1993-2000 (7 pgs.) Renson et al. 2014 "Archaeometry 56": 261-278 (14 pgs.)

Isotopes and Dating
Radiocarbon Dating: Walker 2005 "Radiometric Dating 1. Quaternary dating Methods". 17-36 (21 pgs.)

Recent Advances & Future Directions
Forensics: Font et al. 2015 "Science & Justice 55": 10-17 (7 pgs.)
Provenance: Laffoon et al. 2017 "PLoS ONE 12(2)": e0172562 (14 pgs.)


Registration start dates for the BA2 seminars differ from the registration dates of the regular courses.

Registration will take place with the use of forms. These will be e-mailed by the study advisers to all BA2 students and pre-master students at the beginning of March 2024.

The Administration Office will register all Archaeology BA2 students in uSis for their seminar exams. However, confirmation of these exams in MyStudymap is mandatory. No confirmation = no participation!


For more information about this course, please contact dr. J.E. (Jason) Laffoon.