• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology, Environmental Science

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 (d13C, d15N, d18O 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:

  1. understand and apply the principles and methods underpinning stable isotope analysis;
  2. explain how stable isotopes are used to answer questions in archaeological and biological anthropological scientific research;
  3. construct scientific hypotheses in stable isotope research; and
  4. critically assess whether published isotopic datasets can answer archaeological or biological anthropological research questions.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Short answer test (25) [LO 1,2]
  2. Essay 5000 words (75) [LO 2,3,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


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.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts


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.


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2021 $3630
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2021 $5580
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Winter Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4522 11 Sep 2023 15 Sep 2023 15 Sep 2023 16 Sep 2023 In Person N/A

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