Constructing a New Incremental Isotopic Methodology for
Human Dental Enamel: a Preliminary Examination.
Jacob I. Griffith1,2, Hannah F. James1,2, Hai-Yen Tran3, Barbara Veselka1,2, Christina Cheung1,2, Hugues Gregoir3,4, Christophe Snoeck1,2
1Analytical, Environmental & Geo-Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.
2Maritime Cultures Research Institute, Department of Art Sciences and Archaeology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.
3Faculty of Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
4Belgian Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Team, Belgium.
Jacob I. Griffith
Contact 1. Wright, L. E. 2013. Examining childhood diets at
Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala, through stable isotopic
analysis of sequential enamel microsamples.
Archaeometry 55, 113-133.
2. Plomp, E., von Holstein, I.C., Kootker, L.M.,
Verdegaal‐Warmerdam, S.J., Forouzanfar, T. and
Davies, G.R. 2020. Strontium, oxygen, and carbon
isotope variation in modern human dental enamel.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 172,
3. Reid, D.J. and Dean, M.C., 2006. Variation in
modern human enamel formation times. Journal of
human evolution 50, 329-346.
The following steps are planned to improve the
❖Increase the increment count per-canine and
❖Continued analysis of the enamel growth pattern
to better understand the time resolution of, and
in-between, extracted increments.
This research is supported by the ERC Starting Grant
LUMIERE (Landscape Use and Mobility In EuRope –
Bridging the gap between cremation and inhumation), funded
by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation
programme under grant agreement number 948913.
Aim: Construct a new hand-milling incremental
sampling protocol to reveal variations in C, O, and
Sr isotopic ratios during the enamel formation
period of human molars and canines.
❖Sample population: Modern-archaeological
individuals from Charleroi municipality, Belgium.
❖Preliminary analysis performed on ID:5365 as
87Sr/86Sr bulk values from the M1 (0.7123) and
M3 (0.7110) indicate early-life geographical
❖Incremental isotopes on successional forming
teeth indicate when individual 5365 migrated
into a new geological region.
❖Milling was guided by thin-sections of the
enamel growth pattern (Striae of Retzius).
❖Incremental molar sampling methodology
adapted from Wright (2013) and Plomp et al.
Canine Incremental Sampling
❖The iso-biography of individual 5365 demonstrates that intra-tooth
87Sr/86Sr, δ13Cand δ18O variation can be tracked successionally across
three enamel increments of both molars and canines.
❖The application to canine is novel and was constructed using microscopy
❖Standardised increment locations were plotted on the enamel growth axis.
❖Cuspid enamel formation is less overlying than in molars, making selected
increments less likely to over-lap in their time series.
❖The methodology was re-applied to four individuals.
Microscopy image of
the Striae of Retzius
used to guide sampling
❖Iso-biographies provide further evidence that
successional isotopic variations can be obtained
from the enamel of human canines through
❖Intra 87Sr/86Sr canine values correlate with the
bulk values observed in the M1s and M3s
❖Intra-tooth variation is also observed in δ13C and
❖As enamel growth represents 1.5 years to 5/6
years (Reid & Dean 2006), geographic mobility
and diet can be reconstructed over this period of
❖Canine’s form simultaneously to M2s, meaning
they can be utilised in their absence.
❖Canines are not as usually as worn as molars
and maintain more of the isotopic series
❖Limited powdered enamel per-increment often
means that some δ13C and δ18O values cannot
be measured in duplicate
❖Though increments can be placed in
successional formation,and the age difference
between the increments can be suggested (Reid
& Dean 2006), increments cannot yet be
associated with a specific age.