Lapita migrants in the pacific's oldest cemetery: Isotopic analysis at teouma, vanuatu

R. Alexander Bentley*, Hallie R. Buckley, Matthew Spriggs, Stuart Bedford, Chris J. Ottley, Geoff M. Nowell, Colin G. Macpherson, D. Graham Pearson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    76 Citations (Scopus)


    Teouma, an archaeological site on Efate Island, Vanuatu, features the earliest cemetery yet discovered of the colonizers of Remote Oceania, from the late second millennium B. C. In order to investigate potential migration of seventeen human individuals, we measured isotopes of strontium ( 87Sr/86Sr), oxygen (δ18O), and carbon (δ13C), as well as barium (Ba) and strontium (Sr) concentrations, in tooth enamel from skeletons excavated in the first two field seasons. The majority of individuals cluster with similar isotope and Ba/Sr ratios, consistent with a diet of marine resources supplemented with plants grown on the local basaltic soils. Four outliers, with distinctive 87Sr/86Sr and δ18O, are probably immigrants, three of which were buried in a distinctive position (supine, with the head to the south) with higher Ba/Sr and δ13C, consistent with a terrestrial, nonlocal diet. Among the probable immigrants was a male buried with the crania of three of the locally raised individuals on his chest.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)645-656
    Number of pages12
    JournalAmerican Antiquity
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


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