Transalpine Mobility and Cultural Transfer

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Research Unit Transalpine mobility and cultural transfer

Research topic

Isotopic mapping has become an indispensable tool for the assessment of mobility and trade in the past. This project aims at solving one of the most prominent limiting factors inherent to this type of study which is the overall redundancy of geologically defined isotopic ratios.

For several cultural epochs, cremation is the most common if not exclusive burial custom. In this project, this rather neglected bioarchaeological substrate will be systematically investigated for the first time with selected projects dating into the Urnfield Culture, the older and younger Iron Age, and imperial Roman Age.

The project consists of 7 subprojects, who are crosslinked as followes:

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Interconnection of the subprojects and indication of knowledge transfer.

The subprojects


The intention of this project are in particular:

  • to construct an isotopic map of a reference region of eminent archaeological importance (the Alps and its northern surroundings) by application of anisotopic fingerprint consisting of 4 to 5 isotopic ratios (δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr, 208Pb/204Pb, 207Pb/204Pb, 206Pb/204Pb),
  • to focus on the analysis of cremated material,
  • to conduct an in-depth mineralogical identification of the nature of the analysed material,
  • to establish an isotopic map for the reference region which will be suitable for all archaeological strata,
  • to define an individual isotopic fingerprint by novel data mining methods,
  • to produce a fine-scaled reconstruction of place of origin and migrational direction of non-local skeletal finds of humans and animals, providing entirely new insights into social and cultural change in prehistoric times,
  • and finally, to integrate the data into a freely accessible data bank (worldwide data sharing).