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Tracking Minoan mobility using a multi-isoptopic approach


There is a great need in archaeology to accurately establish human population movements in the past. A promising new technique for this is the use of isotopic signatures in human bone and teeth as indicators of geographical origins. This method has been increasingly applied to archaeology on a relatively small scale, but there has never been a large scale study to assess the inherent variability in these isotope values within a defined region or the possible effects of fossilization on the measurements. Also, studies so far have usually only focused on only one or two elements and not the full suite of possible elements. This proposal therefore seeks to undertake the first systematic multi-isotope study of a well defined region, the Aegean Island of Crete. Crete has a rich archaeological history, and there has been much debate over the role that migrations may have played in cultural change in prehistoric Crete. For example, the origins of the first settlers on Crete in the Neolithic are unknown, and it is not known what role, if any, that any subsequent migrations may have played in the initial rise of the Minoans as well as the dramatic end of the Minoan period. We propose here to establish an isotopic baseline for prehistoric Crete through the measurement of the isotope ratios of strontium, lead, sulphur, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in animal (and human) bone and teeth from prehistoric sites across the island. Additionally diagenetic parameter values of the skeletal material will be assessed. This will be the first study of its kind in both form and scope, as it both utilises a multi-isotope approach using a wide suite of isotopes, and is applied to strategically selected sites in a large bounded geographical region.

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