• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Specialist
  • Course subject Biological Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology, Asia Pacific Studies More...
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dougald O'Reilly
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Spring Session 2020
    See Future Offerings

This course provides an overview of the principle stable isotope techniques applied within archaeology and biological anthropology. The course will proffer a background to the principles underlying the main stable isotopic techniques used in archaeology (δ13C, δ15N, δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr) as well as more advanced techniques and concepts. There will also be discussion of archaeological applications including, for example, the use of stable isotopes to understand early farming practices or Palaeolithic lifeways. The focus will be on evaluating the quality of the dataset and whether it can answer specific archaeological/ anthropological questions posed. 

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Explain and describe the application and use of stable isotopes in archaeological and biological anthropological scientific research
  2. Understand and apply the principles and methods underpinning stable isotope analysis
  3. Construct scientific hypotheses in stable isotope research
  4. Critically assess  published isotopic datasets archaeological or biological anthropological contexts

Indicative Assessment

Short answer test (25%) (LO 1)
Essay 5000 words (75%, LOs 2-3)

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hrs of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of lectures and seminars delivered intensively over 6 days, and
b) 94 hrs of independent student research, reading and writing.

Preliminary Reading

Bentley, R.A., 2006. Strontium isotopes from the earth to the archaeological skeleton: A review Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 13 (3), 135-187.
Lee-Thorp, J.A., 2008. On isotopes and old bones Archaeometry 50 (6), 925-950.
Makarewicz, C.A. and Sealy, J., 2015. Dietary reconstruction, mobility, and the analysis of ancient skeletal tissues: Expanding the prospects of stable isotope research in archaeology Journal of Archaeological Science 56, 146-158.
Tykot, R.H., 2004. Stable isotopes and diet: You are what you eat Proceedings of the International School of Physics “Enrico Fermi” Course CLIV, M. Martini, M. Milazzo and M. Piacentini (Eds.), IOS Press, Amsterdam 2004


Areas of Interest

  • Earth and Marine Sciences
  • Archaeology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Asia Pacific Studies
  • Environmental Science


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $3570
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5460
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Spring Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9370 01 Oct 2020 23 Oct 2020 23 Oct 2020 31 Dec 2020 In Person N/A

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