Sulphur isotope analysis of ancient bone collagen: new methodological developments and applications

Olaf Nehlich1, Mike Richards1,2

1 Department Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
2 University of Durham, Department of Archaeology, U.K.

Sulphur isotope measurements of bone collagen can provide information about the diets and movements of past peoples and animals, yet has only been applied in a few cases.  This is largely due to the methodological problems in measuring sulphur isotopes in collagen, due to the low sulphur content, as well as difficulties in interpreting the isotope values.  We will present here the results of a large-scale study of sulphur isotopes undertaken in Leipzig to better establish indicators to assess the quality of the extracted collagen and the subsequent sulphur isotope values, as well as the application of the method to a wide range of archaeological sites.  We will present examples of a few case studies, focussing particularly on the use of sulphur isotopes as an indicator of the consumption of freshwater fish.