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Lecture | Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminar (LIMS)

Tracking migrations and migration effects in archaeology: New insights from isotope bioarchaeology

Date
Wednesday 9 December 2020
Time
Serie
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2020-2021
Address
Via: https://smart.newrow.com/room/?qjg-259&fr=lti

LIMS talk by Dr. Jason E. Laffoon (Leiden University), entitled 'Tracking migrations and migration effects in archaeology: New insights from isotope bioarchaeology'.

LIMS

The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics.

Abstract

In the last few decades Archaeology has undergone a scientific revolution and a paradigm shift. Thirty years ago, archaeological science was a very small and specialized sub-field. Today many, if not most, of the major new discoveries derive directly from explicitly scientific approaches applied to the archaeological record such as ancient DNA, quantitative modeling, big data, and isotope analysis. In terms of studying migrations, stable and radiogenic isotope analysis represent one of the most exciting innovations in archaeology in the last three decades. Isotopic analysis of human remains (isotope bioarchaeology) offers insights into aspects of migration processes and patterns that cannot be addressed via traditional approaches owing to its focus on the physical remains of actual migrants. This permits the disentangling of true migration from various other related but distinct processes (trade, exchange, diffusion) that are difficult to distinguish based on other migration proxies (e.g. material culture, settlement patterns, landscape change). An added advantage of isotope bioarchaeology is that it enables a bottom-up, micro-scalar perspective on migration (focused on individual life histories), as opposed to the singular focus on macro-scalar perspectives (population migrations) characteristic of more traditional archaeological approaches. Isotope bioarchaeology has proven highly successful at identifying ancient migrants, and with new innovative sampling strategies and the integration of multiple isotopes there is also the potential to study the effects of migration on individual human health. In this presentation, the potentials and limitations of these approaches will be highlighted by two case studies from colonial-era contexts in the Caribbean region.

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