In situ oxygen isotope micro-analysis of faunal material and human teeth using a SHRIMP II: a new tool for palaeo-ecology and archaeology

Maxime Aubert, Ian Williams, Katarina Boljkovac, Ian Moffat, Marie-Helene Moncel, Elise Dufour, Rainer Grun

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    A Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe (SHRIMP II) has been used to make high spatial resolution in situ micro-analyses of oxygen isotopes in fish otoliths, and teeth from fossil herbivores and a Neanderthal. Large intra-tooth variations in the oxygen isotopic composition (up to 9‰) were observed in the enamel of herbivores from the Neanderthal fossil site of Payre, consistent with preservation of seasonal cyclicity. The range of isotopic compositions observed in Neanderthal tooth enamel was much smaller (∼3‰), possibly the result of a longer enamel maturation time averaging out variability. An archaeological otolith from a Preceramic site in Northern Peru exhibited marked changes in δ18O over life, due either to the fish occasionally migrating from the sea to a lower salinity habitat, or to short-lived rises in sea water temperature. A fish otolith from Australia's Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area showed clear seasonal variations, but also a general trend towards isotopically heavier and more saline water, as indicated by higher δ18O and Sr/Ca values resulting from increased evaporation. The results of these case studies are compared to results of oxygen isotope analysis using more conventional methods and demonstrate the ability of the SHRIMP II to provide precise high spatial resolution in-situ oxygen isotope analyses of a variety of biogenic materials. This approach has major advantages over conventional methods. It can provide rapid, micro-scale isotopic analyses of sub-permil precision without the need for chemical preparation of the sample.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3184-3194
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


    • Archaeology
    • Micro-analysis
    • Otolith
    • Oxygen isotopes
    • Palaeo-ecology
    • Secondary ion mass spectrometry
    • Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe
    • Tooth enamel


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