Graduate Student Council Research Grants


Isotopic Analysis of Human Migration among the Ancient Maya of Ambergris Caye, Belize

Document Type



M.A. in Anthropology

Publication Date



Migration is an important demographic process, but on that is difficult to identify using traditional archaeological methods (Freiwald 2011). Archaeological chemistry, especially the use of strontium and oxygen isotope ratios, has revealed a significant amount of mobility among ancient populations around the world(Bentley 2006). My project will contribute to our understanding of Maya migration during the Classic period (AD 250-900) in two ways. First, it will identify basic patterns of population movement in a new population in part of the Maya region where limited data exists. It will also shed light on the contribution of migration to the Maya collapse, specifically in the coastal populations. This study will also provide much needed baseline information on strontium (and other) isotope values that will be useful for other research. I will use isotope geochemistry, specifically strontium isotope ratios, to identify non-local values in human tooth enamel. I will prepare the samples at the University of Mississippi following protocols in Freiwald (2018) and Price et al. (2008). Isotope values will be measured in the clean enamel samples using a VG Sector 54 thermal ionization mass spectrometer (TIMS) at the Isotope Geochemistry lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, long time collaborators with my advisor, Dr. Freiwald.

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