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Isotopic evidence for human movement into central England during the Early Neolithic

Neil, Samantha; Evans, Jane; Montgomery, Janet; Scarre, Chris

Isotopic evidence for human movement into central England during the Early Neolithic Thumbnail


Samantha Neil

Jane Evans

Chris Scarre


Isotope ratios of tooth enamel from ten Early Neolithic individuals buried in a long cairn at Whitwell in central England were measured to determine where they sourced their childhood diet. Five individuals have low Sr concentrations (11–66 ppm) and high 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.7164–0.7212). Three individuals have relatively low 87Sr/86Sr ratios (0.712–0.711) and Sr concentrations ranging between 54 and 109 ppm. Two individuals have strontium isotope values that bridge the gap between the isotope compositions of these two groups. The high 87Sr/86Sr values are rare in human enamel and exclude sources within the biosphere of central England. Oxygen isotope values are comparable to those found within human archaeological populations buried in temperate regions of Europe. The strontium isotope results should be interpreted in the context of other evidence for migration from northern France to Britain during the Early Neolithic. Les rapports isotopiques de l'émail des dents appartenant à dix individus ensevelis dans un long cairn à Whitwell dans le centre de l'Angleterre ont été analysés pour établir d'où provenait l'alimentation de ces individus pendant leur enfance. Cinq individus ont une faible concentration de strontium (11–66 ppm) et un taux élevé de 87Sr/86Sr (0.7164–0.7212). Trois individus ont une proportion relativement faible de 87Sr/86Sr (0.712–0.711) et des concentrations de strontium comprises entre 54 et 109 ppm. Deux individus possèdent des valeurs isotopiques de strontium qui comblent l’écart entre les compositions isotopiques de ces deux groupes. On rencontre rarement des valeurs élevées de 87Sr/86Sr dans l'émail de dents humaines et il nous faut exclure une source dans la biosphère du centre de l'Angleterre. Les valeurs des isotopes de l'oxygène sont proches de celles que contiennent les restes archéologiques de populations humaines que l'on retrouve dans les sépultures des régions tempérées d'Europe continentale. Les résultats des analyses isotopiques du strontium pourraient donc plaider en faveur d'une migration de groupes humains au Néolithique ancien. Translation by Madeleine Hummler.


Neil, S., Evans, J., Montgomery, J., & Scarre, C. (2020). Isotopic evidence for human movement into central England during the Early Neolithic. European Journal of Archaeology, 23(4), 512-529.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 28, 2020
Online Publication Date May 8, 2020
Publication Date Nov 30, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 11, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 12, 2020
Journal European Journal of Archaeology
Print ISSN 1461-9571
Electronic ISSN 1741-2722
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 4
Pages 512-529


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (646 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version COPYRIGHT: © European Association of Archaeologists 2020
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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