Julia Lee-Thorp

Julia Lee-Thorp
University of Oxford | OX · School of Archaeology

Ph.D., 1989, University of Cape Town.

About

299
Publications
84,605
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Introduction
I am primarily an Africanist archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist who develops and applies isotopic approaches to dietary ecology, environment and climates.Current collaborative projects include the Middle Stone Age in South Africa (Pinnacle Point, Wonderwerk) and North Africa (Taforalt), and two NERC projects, one exploring seasonal ecological shifts in East African hominin tooth enamel profiles, the other developing an enamel-based AAR dating method for application in human evolution.
Additional affiliations
May 2010 - present
University of Oxford
May 2005 - April 2010
University of Bradford
Position
  • Professor
January 1992 - April 2005
University of Cape Town

Publications

Publications (299)
Article
Full-text available
The timing of infant weaning in the past is important for its implications for birth-spacing and infant survival, and hence for population maintenance or growth under different socio-economic regimes. Prior to the adoption of agriculture, breastfeeding is believed to have been more prolonged amongst hunter-gatherers due, at least partly, to the lac...
Chapter
Humans evolved in the dynamic landscapes of Africa under conditions of pronounced climatic, geological and environmental change during the past 7 million years. This book brings together detailed records of the paleontological and archaeological sites in Africa that provide the basic evidence for understanding the environments in which we evolved....
Article
Agriculture has been crucial in sustaining human populations in South Asia across dramatically variable environments for millennia. Until recently, however, the origins of this mode of subsistence in India have been discussed in terms of population migration and crop introduction, with limited focus on how agricultural packages were formulated and...
Article
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Rationale: Embedding resins are commonly used to facilitate high resolution sampling for stable isotope analysis but anomalous δ13C values have been observed in some cases. Here we compare the results of microsampling strategies for hand-drilled versus resin-embedded micromilled samples from the same marine shells to assess whether resin contamina...
Article
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It is well-known that pigs ( Sus scrofa ) were domesticated very early in Neolithic China, but far less is known about the processes by which pig husbandry intensified so that pork became the most important animal protein for humans are less clear. Here, we explore pig feeding practices using the carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of bone coll...
Article
This paper presents a four year subannual isotope marine temperature record using modern Spisula sachalinensis specimens from Tomakomai (Hokkaido's Pacific coast, Japan). This species is commonly found in pre- and protohistoric shell middens and faunal assemblages from around the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk, so has significant potential as an indicat...
Article
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The archaeological record shows that large pre-Inca agricultural systems supported settlements for centuries around the ravines and oases of northern Chile’s hyperarid Atacama Desert. This raises questions about how such productivity was achieved and sustained, and its social implications. Using isotopic data of well-preserved ancient plant remains...
Chapter
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Conclusions: One of the main tasks of archaeologists is pattern recognition. In this paper we have focused on one particular case study, the prehistoric hunter-gatherer cemetery of Zvejnieki in northeastern Europe (Henderson et al. in prep.). A very striking and persistent pattern was highlighted, linking the presence or absence of animal tooth pe...
Article
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Although the Middle Stone Age (MSA) of southern Africa, associated with major cultural innovation including aspects of symbolic behavior and the development of complex hunting tools, has been the focus of intensive research, well-documented contexts for the early Middle Stone Age (EMSA) are rare. Here, we present archeological and ecological data o...
Article
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Objectives Stable isotope analysis of sequential dentine samples is a potentially powerful method to reveal insights into early life‐histories of individuals in the past. Dentine incremental growth structures are complex, however, and current approaches that apply horizontal sectioning of demineralized tooth halves or quarters risk combining multip...
Article
The Greater Cape Floristic Region of South Africa was critical to the evolution of early modern humans (Homo sapiens) during the Pleistocene. The now submerged continental shelf formed its own ecosystem, the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP), where early humans lived and foraged. Grazing animals living on the plain might have migrated east and west tracki...
Article
Proxy records dating to marine isotope stage 6 on the south coast of South Africa are rare. This study presents integrated micromammal and macromammal stable isotope palaeoenvironmental proxy data from one of the few MIS 6 fossil occurrences in the region, a fossil brown hyena (Parahyena brunnea) den, Pinnacle Point 30 (PP30). Two predators with si...
Article
Link to paper – https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1aT~D,rVDBRerf This paper presents the results of a study using strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes, strontium concentrations, infrared analyses and radiocarbon dating to investigate human mobility and landscape use as seen in individuals from the Neolithic court tomb of Parknabinnia, Co. Clare, Ire...
Article
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The coexistence of cultural identities and their interaction is a fundamental topic of social sciences that is not easily addressed in prehistory. Differences in mortuary treatment can help approach this issue. Here, we present a multi-isotope study to track both diet and mobility through the life histories of 32 broadly coeval Late Neolithic indiv...
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This paper investigates agricultural management choices of farmers at the Neolithic site of Kouphvouno, southern Greece. Previous stable isotopic analysis of charred plant remains and bone animal collagen showed that throughout the Neolithic occupation of this site, farmers employed species-specific strategies to cultivate crops and herd domestic a...
Article
Strontium isotopes are used in archaeology, ecology, forensics, and other disciplines to study the origin of artefacts, humans, animals and food items. Strontium in animal and human tissues such as bone and teeth originates from food and drink consumed during life, leaving an isotopic signal corresponding to their geographical origin (i.e. where th...
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We challenge the view that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved within a single population and/or region of Africa. Genetic data are consistent with a diverse and subdivided African ancestry, potentially including gene flow with currently unidentified African archaic populations. The chronology and physical diversity of Pleistocene human fossils also...
Article
Isotope analysis of collagen from high-resolution sequential samples of dentine has become a popular tool to provide diachronic insights into individual life histories including childhood diet, stress episodes, and mobility during the tooth formation period. New microsampling approaches improve temporal resolution enabling tracking of diet shifts w...
Article
Linear B administrative documents of the late second millennium BC from urban Knossos, Crete, reveal that spatially extensive and centrally monitored sheep flocks and wool production played a fundamental role in Mycenaean palatial economy. Here we employ multi-isotope (δ 13 C, δ 18 O, 87 Sr/ 86 Sr) analysis of sequentially sampled sheep and goat to...
Article
This study assesses the seasonal scheduling of shellfish harvesting among hunter-gatherer populations along the southernmost coast of South Africa, based on a large number of serial oxygen isotope analyses of marine mollusk shells from four archaeological sites. The south coast of South Africa boasts an exceptional record of coastal hunter-gatherer...
Article
The hillforts of the Oxfordshire Ridgeway in south-central England have been interpreted as central places in the Early/Middle Iron Age, ca. 600-100 BCE, serving, among other functions, to integrate the management of animals , particularly sheep, between the upland Chalk downs and the adjacent low-lying Vale of the White Horse. Since these landform...
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Despite its largely hyper-arid and inhospitable climate today, the Arabian Peninsula is emerging as an important area for investigating Pleistocene hominin dispersals. Recently, a member of our own species was found in northern Arabia dating to ca. 90 ka, while stone tools and fossil finds have hinted at an earlier, middle Pleistocene, hominin pres...
Article
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The common springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), with its characteristic dorsal fan and stotting movement is the national animal of South Africa. In the Pleistocene, this species shared the subcontinent with the extinct Bond's springbok (Antidorcas bondi), and differences in their ecological relationship has been of long-standing interest to palaeont...
Article
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Cremated human remains from Stonehenge provide direct evidence on the life of those few select individuals buried at this iconic Neolithic monument. The practice of cremation has, however, precluded the application of strontium isotope analysis of tooth enamel as the standard chemical approach to study their origin. New developments in strontium is...
Article
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Tooth dentine serial sampling followed by isotope analyses allows detection of shifts in an individual's diet during the periods of tooth formation, providing information on breastfeeding, weaning and childhood nutrition. Current sampling methods, however, do not fully capture the potential resolution of dentine increments because of the difficulti...
Article
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The influence of climatic and environmental change on human evolution in the Pleistocene epoch is understood largely from extensive East African stable isotope records. These records show increasing proportions of C4 plants in the Early Pleistocene. We know far less about the expansion of C4 grasses at higher latitudes, which were also occupied by...
Article
Full-text available
We challenge the view that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved within a single population and/or region of Africa. The chronology and physical diversity of Pleistocene human fossils suggest that morphologically varied populations pertaining to the H. sapiens clade lived throughout Africa. Similarly, the African archaeological record demonstrates the...
Article
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The aim of this study is to investigate livestock husbandry and its relationship to the mobilization of domestic animals for slaughter at large communal feasting events, in Late Neolithic Makriyalos, northern Greece. A multi-isotope approach is built that integrates analysis of: • δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N values of human and animal bone collagen for understa...
Data
All plant and bone collagen δ13C and δ15N values obtained in Stage 1. (XLSX)
Data
FTIR spectrum of MKS104. (TIF)
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Supplementary materials and methods. Details of instrument measurement and data normalization. (DOCX)
Data
Contextual information of bone collagen and plant samples measured in Stage 1. (XLSX)
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Cattle δ13C and δ18O values obtained in Stage 2. (XLSX)
Data
87Sr/86Sr ratios of modern vegetation from coastal northern Pieria. The samples were collected from seven geological zones within 15 km of the archaeological site. The measurements are used to establish the ‘local range’ of 87Sr/86Sr ratios. For descriptions of the zones and location of sampling points, see Fig 6. 2σ uncertainty of the 87Sr/86Sr ra...
Data
FTIR spectrum of MKS015. (TIF)
Data
Matching mandibular collagen δ13C and δ15N values and average intra-tooth enamel δ13C values of individuals analyzed in Stage 2. Standard deviation (SD) of collagen values indicates the instrument error attached to each measurement, while the SD of average enamel values indicates intra-tooth variability. (XLSX)
Data
Sheep δ13C and δ18O values obtained in Stage 2. (XLSX)
Article
Full-text available
The originally published version of this Article contained an error in Fig. 3, whereby an additional unrelated graph was overlaid on top of the magnetic susceptibility plot. Furthermore, the Article title contained an error in the capitalisation of 'Stone Age'. Both of these errors have now been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of the Ar...
Article
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Headland and Bailey (1991) argued in Human Ecology that tropical forests could not support long-term human foraging in the absence of agriculture. Part of their thesis was based on the fact that supposedly isolated ‘forest’ foragers, such as the Wanniyalaeto (or Vedda) peoples of Sri Lanka, could be demonstrated to be enmeshed within historical tra...
Article
Strontium (Sr) isotope analysis of archaeological crops is a potential method of provenancing and identifying the movement of crops in the past, but there remains uncertainty about whether original ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr values can be obtained from carbonized buried grains. We have determined that hydrochloric acid (HCl) leaching removes some, but not all, exog...
Article
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The Middle to Later Stone Age transition in Africa has been debated as a significant shift in human technological, cultural, and cognitive evolution. However, the majority of research on this transition is currently focused on southern Africa due to a lack of long-term, stratified sites across much of the African continent. Here, we report a 78,000...
Article
Research on the Late Intermediate Period (AD 900–1450) in northern Chile has been strongly influenced by two mobility models: John Murra's classic vertical ecological archipelago model, with highland colonies in the lowlands; and the gyratory mobility model, with pastoralists and their llama caravans controlling trade. The widespread application of...
Article
The Rioja Alavesa region of north‐central Spain witnessed great demographic pressure and social unrest, manifested as widespread violent conflict, during the Late Neolithic (ca. 3500‐2900 cal BC). Drawing upon the ethnographic literature, it is possible that this situation impacted upon child‐rearing practices, both through food shortages and diffe...
Article
The large mammalian fauna of southern Africa is characterised by strong niche separation into grazer and browser species, with few falling into the intermediate mixed-feeder niche. Moreover, the modern fauna is reduced in species diversity compared to the Pleistocene, following the extinction of several specialized grazers in the late Pleistocene a...
Article
Grotta del Romito has been the subject of numerous archaeological, chronological and palaeoenvironmental investigations for more than a decade. During the Upper Palaeolithic period the site contains evidence of human occupation through the Gravettian and Epigravettian periods, multiple human burials, changes in the pattern of human occupation, and...
Article
The southern Cape coastal region is important for understanding both the behavioural history of modern humans, and regional and global climate dynamics, because it boasts a long archaeological record and occupies a key geographical location near the intersection of two major oceans. The western boundary Agulhas Current, implicated in global heat ex...
Poster
Full-text available
Pica 8 is a Late Intermediate Period (AD 900–1450) cemetery located in the Atacama Desert. Burials at the site present unexpectedly high variability in13C (–8‰ to –16‰) and 15N (10‰ to 24‰) values in their skeletal tissues, implying highly diverse diets.........
Article
Full-text available
Wonderwerk Cave has yielded one of the longest and most complete Holocene Later Stone Age (LSA) records for the arid interior of South Africa. This paper presents the results of a new radiocarbon dating program for Excavation 1 that is explored within a Bayesian model of all existing Wonderwerk Cave radiocarbon ( ¹⁴ C) dates for the Holocene. The p...
Article
Pica 8 is a Late Intermediate Period (AD 900–1450) cemetery located in the Atacama Desert. Burials at the site present unexpectedly high variability in δ13C (–8‰ to –16‰) and δ15N (10‰ to 24‰) values in their skeletal tissues, implying highly diverse diets. There are two possible explanations for this variability: the first is diachronic change in...
Article
Pica 8 is a Late Intermediate Period (AD 900–1450) cemetery located in the Atacama Desert. Burials at the site present unexpectedly high variability in13C (–8‰ to –16‰) and 15N (10‰ to 24‰) values in their skeletal tissues, implying highly diverse diets. There are two possible explanations for this variability: the first is diachronic change in d...
Article
The terminal Pleistocene/Holocene boundary (approximately 12–8 thousand years ago) represented a major ecological threshold for humans, both as a significant climate transition and due to the emergence of agriculture around this time. In the highlands of New Guinea, climatic and environmental changes across this period have been highlighted as pote...
Article
Tropical forests constitute some of the most diverse and complex terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. From the Miocene onward, they have acted as a backdrop to the ongoing evolution of our closest living relatives, the great apes, and provided the cradle for the emergence of early hominins, who retained arboreal physiological adaptations at least...