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Stable Light Isotope Laboratory

The Stable Light Isotope laboratory is located within the Archaeology Department. It provides stable light isotope analyses for the University community and users from outside. Our equipment includes three light isotope mass spectrometers. These are a MAT 252 interfaced with a GasBench II as well as a Delta Plus XP and a DeltaV, both interfaced with elemental analysers and high temperature combustion devices. We are equipped to handle gases, (CO2, N2, H2 and O2) from organic, silicate, carbonate and air/breath samples. Fields of research range widely from palaeo-dietary and palaeo-ecological reconstructions, lithogenesis, hydrology, botany, zoology, ecology, wildlife management as well as medical and sport science applications. The laboratory is also equipped with general-purpose vacuum distillation lines for routine gas preparation.

Further preparation facilities are located in the Stable Isotope Laboratory of the Department of Geological Sciences, right across the avenue.
We have opportunities for Masters and PhD students, and for post-doctoral researchers with related interests.

Typical projects involving stable isotopes and researchers from the Department of Archaeology:

  • Studies of palaeo-ecology through isotopic analyses of residues from archaeological sites.
  • Diets of prehistoric hunter-gatherers on the Southern African coast.
  • Analysis of oxygen isotope ratios in mid-Holocene shells from the western Cape coast, to investigate possible mid-Holocene warming of sea surface temperatures.
  • Diets of Iron Age peoples
  • Diets and life histories of early colonial people, including slaves.

Archaeology Dept, Beattie Building, rooms 3.23 and 3.24, Upper Campus

Personnel: Judith Sealy, Vincent Hare.

Instruments and facilities maintained by Julie Luyt