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Isotope analyses

The determination of isotope compositions, in particular the combination of different isotope systems, has a wide range of applications in the fields of archaeology, geosciences and biosciences. At the CEZA, they are mainly used for archaeometallurgical, geological and bioarchaeological questions.

Isotope analyses are the most important tool for narrowing down the origin of materials, researching ancient processing techniques and classifying materials, e.g. to determine whether two or more objects or parts of objects belong together. Isotope analyses are also used in bioarchaeology to investigate questions about the diet and mobility of humans and animals and contribute to climate studies.


For the determination of lead, strontium, tin, silver, antimony, copper and lithium isotope compositions, CEZA has a high-resolution multi-collector mass spectrometer with inductively coupled plasma ionisation (Thermo Neptune Plus) at its disposal. A thermionic mass spectrometer for negative ions (Finnigan MAT 261) can be used to determine osmium and rhenium isotope ratios, while two mass spectrometers for light stable isotopes (IRMS isoprime) are used to analyse carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur isotope ratios.

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