Accessibility statement

Light Stable Isotopes

Josie Thomas, BioArCh Administrator

BioArCh, Environment Building
Wentworth Way, York
YO10 5NG, UK

Stable isotope analysis is a well-established technique in archaeology for exploring diet and mobility in past populations. BioArCh has an international profile for excellence in stable isotope research investigating subsistence strategies across the globe, ranging from the Mesolithic to post-Medieval periods. We routinely conduct bulk stable isotope analysis of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and sulphur (S, also informs on mobility) on a diverse range of organic samples including bone (collagen), tooth (dentine), hair and fur (keratin) and also deposits such as charred foodcrusts from ceramic vessels and archaeological plant remains. There are also facilities for analysing oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H/D) in organic material to inform on mobility. 

We are also one of the few archaeological laboratories in the UK currently processing and analysing carbon and nitrogen isotopes in single amino acids of collagen (compound-specific isotope analysis), a relatively new technique to archaeology which provides higher resolution information on past diet than bulk analysis alone.   

We have an interest in participating in outside collaborative projects. For further information contact our administrator, Josie Thomas

Research Highlights

Some of our past research includes:

Facilities, Equipment and Instrumentation

  • Sercon continuous flow 20-22 Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer with universal Faraday triple collectors (C,N,S,O) and additional single Faraday collector for m/z 3 (H).
  • Sercon GSL preparation Unit with 66 place zero blank performance open carousel autosampler
  • High Temperature Furnace (HT-EA) with 66 place zero blank closed carousel autosampler for hygroscopic 18O and 2H analysis.
  • Thermo Delta V Plus coupled to Thermo Trace GC and Thermo Flash 2000 Elemental Analyser via a ConFloIV interface capable of determining 13C and 15N in amino acids 
  • Mettler Toledo MT5 6dp micro balance
  • Lablyo -55°C Freeze Dryer