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Isotopes in archaeology


Admission requirements

BA2 courses Bioarchaeology and Quaternary geology (or equivalents) obtained.


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 restrictions of various types of isotope data will be discussed.

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 restrictions of the different methods.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Weekly lectures which should be prepared by submitting concise written assignments of 150 words, in which discussion points based on the assigned literature are critically evaluated.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Ca. 140 pages of literature including assignments (1 ec);

  • Essay of 1,500 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Weekly written assignments (25%);

  • Essay on one of the techniques addressed in the case studies, including finding additional literature (75%).

If you fail the exam, there is an opportunity for a retake of the final essay only. This is only allowed when all assignments during the course have been submitted. Assignments cannot be retaken.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA3 examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact dr. J.E. Laffoon or dr. R. Schats.