Description of Research Area

Conducting stable isotope analysis on archaeological remains requires us to know that the material has not been significantly altered by biogeochemical processes in the burial environment. We use various physical and chemical techniques in the laboratory when preparing materials for stable isotope analysis to minimize the possibility of measuring altered material. Various metrics have also been developed to identify when the material has been altered to such an extent that the isotope measurements are no longer valid. I am interested in any research that seeks to improve our ability to measure the isotopic compositions of archaeological materials. I am also interested in the chemical and physical properties of bone (especially fish bone) and how these properties influence stable isotope measurements specifically and taphonomy in general. 

Representative Publications

  • Hyland C, Scott MB, Routledge J, Szpak P, 2021. Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Variability of Bone Collagen to Determine the Number of Isotopically Distinct Specimens. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. doi:10.1007/s10816-021-09533-7. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Guiry EJ, Szpak P, 2021. Improved quality control criteria for stable carbon and nitrogen isotope measurements of ancient bone collagen. Journal of Archaeological Science 132, 105416. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2021.105416.[DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Guiry E, Szpak P, 2020. Quality Control for Modern Bone Collagen Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Measurements. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 11, 1049-1060. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.13433. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak P, Krippner K, Richards MP, 2017. Effects of Sodium Hydroxide Treatment and Ultrafiltration on the Removal of Humic Contaminants from Archaeological Bone. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 27, 1070-1077. doi:10.1002/oa.2630. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]


Opportunities are currently available for graduate and undergraduate students interested in this research area.