Mattia Rossi, Paola Iacumin, Gianpiero Venturelli

87Sr/86Sr Isotope Ratio as a Tool in Archaeological Investigation: Limits and Risks

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes

During the last forty years, the use of strontium isotopes in archaeology and biogeochemical research has spread widely. These isotopes, alone or in combination with others, can contribute to trace past and present environmental conditions. However, the interpretation of the isotopic values of strontium is not always simple and requires good knowledge of geochemistry and geology. This short paper on the use of strontium isotopes is aimed at those who use this tool (archaeologists, but not only) but who do not have a thorough knowledge of mineralogy, geology, and geochemistry necessary for a good understanding of natural processes involving these isotopes. We report basic knowledge and suggestions for the correct use of these isotopes. The isotopic characteristics of bio-assimilable strontium depend not so much on the isotopic characteristics of the bulk rock as, rather, on those of its more soluble minerals. Before studying human, animal and plant remains, the state of conservation and any conditions of isotopic pollution should be carefully checked. Samples should be collected according to random sampling rules. The data should be treated by a statistical approach. To make comparisons between different areas, it should be borne in mind that the study of current soils can be misleading since the mineralogical modification of soil over time can be very rapid.

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