ISOTOPIA: the potentials and limitations of isotope analyses in Archaeology

ISOTOPIA: the potentials and limitations of isotope analyses in Archaeology

Date: 2 & 3 April 2020

Venue: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

The first day of the event will be held at the GIA, Poststraat 6, 9712 ER Groningen.

The workshop on the second day will be held at the Centre for Isotope Research (CIO), Nijenborgh 6, 9747 AG Groningen.*

Registration: register by sending an email to


1 ECTS for RMA students attending the symposium and handing in a written report.

2 ECTS by participating on both days and writing a report.

Deadline for the report: 4 May 2020

Fee: The attendance fee for non-speakers: 10 euro for 1 day, 15 euro for 2, and can be paid at registration. (For ARCHON members, this fee will be reimbursed.)


Impressive developments in archaeological science have provided archaeologists with the opportunity to study the past in new ways, and to push our interpretations beyond the limits of conventional methods. This development has been described as a “third scientific revolution”. The revolutionary nature of this development has already been attested in the large body of isotope studies and other biochemical applications in zooarchaeology that highlight previously unknown aspects of human-animal-environment relationships. Studies of the remnant fats in archaeological potteries have opened up new perspectives on human past culinary practices. Current advances in radiocarbon dating methods allow us to determine the age of organic material more accurately than ever before.

These new advances, however, also bring new questions and concerns regarding sample curation, excavation, data sharing and data legacy practices, the limited sources of archaeofaunal and human skeletal remains, the common misconceptions about isotope practices, misguided concerns about the results obtained from these studies, as well as the ethics involved in destructive sampling methods within the archaeological community.


During this two-day event, we will bring researchers and postgraduate students in the Archaeological Sciences with different approaches and regional backgrounds together to discuss the current “state of the art ” of isotope analyses, especially isotope studies in zooarchaeology and human dietary and mobility patterns, residue analysis, and radiocarbon dating and their application to the study of the past. We aim to demonstrate the potential of the exciting developments of the third science revolution, balanced with critical notes regarding the pros and cons of this field.

The second day afternoon is reserved for a visit to the Centre for Isotope Research (CIO) organized by Dr. Margot Kuitems (CIO) and Dr. Michael Dee (CIO). During this workshop, there will be a tour of the facilities used for stable and radioisotope analysis, such as state-of-the-art MICADAS accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS). During this tour, there will be a demonstration of the principles of isotope research, wood cellulose and bone collagen extraction in which the participants will also learn about isotope data analysis and modelling. We will also provide an opportunity for hands-on practice of tooth enamel incremental sampling, and food crusts and residue extraction from ceramics.



Day 1 (At the Groningen Institute of Archaeology)

09:00 – 09:30 Registration

09:30 – 09:40 Welcome to Day 1 (Daan Raemaekers)

09:40 – 10:40 Keynote Speaker (Cheryl Makarewicz)


Session 1 (Stable Isotopes in Zooarchaeology and Human Dietary and Mobility Patterns)

10:40 – 11:00 Speaker 1 (Laura Llorente Rodriguez)

11:00 – 11:20 Speaker 2 (Gareth Davies)

11:20 – 11:35 Coffee Break

11:35 – 11:55 Speaker 3 (Lisette Kootker)

11:55 – 12:15 Speaker 4 (Wietske Prummel et al.)

12:15 – 12:35 Speaker 5 (Michelle Alexander)

12:35 – 12:55 Speaker 6 (Safoora Kamjan)

12:55 -14:30 Lunch Break


Session 2 (Radiocarbon Dating)

14:30 – 14:50 Speaker 1 (Michael Dee)

14:50 – 15:20 Speaker 2 (Margot Kuitems)

15:20 – 15:50 Speaker 3 (TBA)

15:50 – 16:10 Discussion

16:10 – 16:20 Closing remarks

16:20 – 18:00 Drinks at the GIA


Day 2 (At CIO)

09:00 – 09:30 Registration

09:30 – 09:40 Welcome to Day 2


Session 3 (Residue analysis)

09:40 – 10:00 Speaker 1 (Özge Demirci)

10:40 – 11:00 Speaker 2 (Manon Bondetti)

11:20 – 11:40 Speaker 3 (TBA)

11:40 – 11:55 Coffee Break

11:55 -12:15 Discussion

12:15 – 12: 25 Closing remarks (for the session) + information on afternoon session

12:25 – 13:30 Lunch Break

13:30 – 16:00 Tour of CIO labs, demonstration of pre-treatment methods & hands-on practice