Nitrogen dating archaeology
Isotopes and the Study of Environment Many scientific fields utilize isotopic analysis to study past climate and environment. It is important to determine the environmental setting of a particular time and place in order to gain a better understanding of the factors that could have influenced the way a community developed.Long and short term changes in climate can have a dramatic impact on the ways in which people may procure or produce their food.Isotope Analysis Methods In order to investigate stable isotopes from human and animal bones, a very small sample of bone is needed for the analysis.Due to advances in accelerated mass spectrometry (AMS) a small sample which can range from 200 milligrams to 1gram of bone can be used.The mass spectrometer works by measuring the masses and relative concentrations of atoms and molecules.
While most people are familiar with isotopic analysis related to the study of or C-14, fewer are familiar with the analysis of other isotopes that are present in biological material such as human or animal bone.
These isotopes have been used most commonly to study diets of marine versus terrestrial (land based) animals and the intake of particular types of plant resources (for example maize and millet).
Isotopes can be used to assess diet because a direct relationship exists between the type of food being consumed and the corresponding isotopic "signature" found in the bone collagen of both humans and animals.
Isotopic analysis is used in a variety of fields across the sciences, such as Geology, Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Ecology.
Archaeology, which is situated between the hard natural sciences and social sciences, has adapted the techniques developed in these fields to answer both archaeological and anthropological questions that span the globe over both time and space.