Instrumental investigation of oxygen isotopes in human dental enamel from the Bronze Age battlefield site at Tollense, Germany

Publication date: May 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 105

Author(s): T. Douglas Price, Michael J. Spicuzza, Ian J. Orland, John W. Valley


Oxygen isotopes were analyzed in human teeth dating to approximately 1250 BC from a Bronze Age battlefield along the Tollense River in northwestern Germany. Tooth enamel was sectioned, prepared, and analyzed using Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) and Confocal Laser Fluorescence Microscopy (CLFM). The results of the study indicate that diagenesis has locally altered the tooth enamel. Brightly luminescing domains seen by confocal laser fluorescent microscopy are chemically changed in oxygen isotope ratios and elemental [Cl] concentrations. Values of δ18O are up to 2.7‰ lower in altered domains. Thus, diagenetic changes are observed in enamel that is 3250 years old and has been waterlogged for most of its depositional history. We recommend that studies of enamel in human teeth routinely evaluate the possibility of diagenesis.