Dr Amy Styring

Research Profile

As an archaeological chemist and Head of the Stable Isotope Lab, I advance scientific methods that reveal a direct and detailed picture of everyday life in the past, particularly in relation to food production and consumption practices and their impact on the environment. You can hear a bit more about my research interests in this podcast recorded with St Cross College.

I focus on carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of human and animal bones and charred plant remains recovered from archaeological sites and use the carbon and nitrogen isotope values of individual amino acids in their proteins to improve predictions of human and animal diet. I have also applied strontium isotope analysis to plant remains to elucidate the movement of crops in the past and strontium and oxygen isotope analysis to animal teeth to study the movement of livestock.

I use these methods to tackle major questions about life in the past, in a variety of archaeological contexts from different time periods and geographical regions. My current research activities are listed below:

Research activities

2022–2028          Project Partner: Tracing the Epipalaeolithic origins of plant management in southwest Asia (PalaeOrigins), European Research Council. PI: Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, Universidad del País Vasco

2022–2025          Co-I: Agencies of behavioural change in early modern humans in NW Africa (CAVES Africa Project), Leverhulme Trust. PI: Nick Barton

2022–2024          Project Partner: CROPREVIVE: mapping underutilised crops in Ireland – past, present and future, Irish Research Council. PI: Meriel McClatchie, UCD

2022–2024          Project Partner: FOODSEC: Food security in Bronze Age Ireland, Irish Research Council. PI: Meriel McClatchie, UCD

2021–2023          Project Partner: Utnyttjande av hassel i Skåne och Blekinges förhistoriska landskap, Ebbe Kocks stiftelse. PI: Karl Ljung, Lund University

2020–2024          Project Partner: Plant environment and resource exploitation in SW Ethiopia >50 ka to the present, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. PIs: Katharina Neumann and Karen Hahn, Frankfurt University

2019–2024          Project Partner: Isolation and Evolution in Oceanic Islands: the human colonisation of the Canary Islands (IsoCAN), European Research Council. PI: Jonathan Santana-Cabrera, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

2019–2023          Project Partner: Resilience and breakpoints – exploring linkages between societal, agricultural and climatic changes in Iron Age Denmark, Det Frie Forskningsråd. PI: Mads Dengsø Jessen, National Museum of Denmark


Undergraduate teaching

Undergraduate lecturer for:

  • Honour Moderations Paper 4 – The Nature of Archaeological & Anthropological Enquiry
  • FHS option paper – Science-Based Methods in Archaeology


Postgraduate teaching

Postgraduate taught course options in:


Doctoral Supervision

I am happy to supervise on topics involving reconstructing past diets (of both humans and animals), cultivation and animal management practices, and their impact on the environment using isotopic analysis, particularly projects aiming to advance compound specific isotope approaches to address these questions.

Current students

Reconstructing the ecology and chronology of Neolithic agropastoral management at Dispilio, Lake Orestias
Doris Vidas | DPhil Archaeological Science | Supervisors: Amy Bogaard, Amy Styring and Mike Charles
Extricating the importance of freshwater resource use within prehistoric diets: combining the power of bulk and compound specific stable isotope analysis with established freshwater reservoir effects on radiocarbon dates
Corrie Hyland | DPhil Archaeological Science | Supervisors: Rick Schulting and Amy Styring
Using Compound Specific Isotope Analysis and New Metabolomics Techniques to Explore Novel Dietary Biomarkers for Palaeodietary Reconstruction
Michael Scott | DPhil Archaeological Science | Supervisors: James McCullagh and Amy Styring

Past students

The Rise of Shimao 2800–1300 BC in the North Loess Plateau, China: An Exploration of the climate, demographic, economic, and material culture influences
Ying Fung (2021) ORA | DPhil Archaeology | Supervisors: Julia Lee-Thorp and Amy Styring
A bioarchaeological study of intensification of pig husbandry in the middle Yellow River region during the Yangshao Period (7000–5000 BP)
Quan Zhang (2021) ORA | DPhil Archaeological Science | Supervisors: Julia Lee-Thorp and Amy Styring

Key words: bioarchaeology, biocultural heritage, diet, farming and herding, land use, woodlands, earlier prehistory, later prehistory, medieval, Africa, Eurasia