I am primarily interested in the dietary ecology of hominins in Africa and Eurasia, with a strong reliance on stable isotope approaches to address questions about dietary ecology and the closely related themes of climate and vegetation patterning. In more recent archaeology the topics of most interest are life histories and seasonal mobility in prehistoric humans, and in wild and domestic animals, from their multiple isotope systems in skeletal and organic tissues. I have worked on sites in South America, the Middle East, and Europe but my primary focus is in Africa.
2007-2009 Advisory Board, Historical East African Landscapes Project (PI Lane, York University).
2006-2010 Research Director, Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences, University of Bradford.
2006-2008 NERC Peer Review College
2007-2010 Review Panel, NRCF - ORADS.
2015 National Radiocarbon Facility Archaeology Panel, Paired human-textile dating at Pica 8, northern Chile. (CI)
2015 National Radiocarbon Facility Archaeology Panel, The timing of archaeological and environmental shifts at Nelson Bay Cave and Byneskranskop 1, Southern Cape coast, South Africa.
2015 NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities Steering Committee. Sea surface temperatures from oxygen isotope ratios in marine molluscs from Late Pleistocene Middle Stone Age sites, South Africa.
2014-2015 National Radiocarbon Facility Archaeology Panel. Timing of environmental shifts at Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape, South Africa, and implications for extinction events.
2013-2014 British Academy, Coming to Knowth. A strontium isotope approach to Neolithic mobility at a passage tomb cemetery. Schulting (PI), Lee-Thorp (CI).
2012-2013 John Fell OUP Research Fund, Postdoctoral fellowship for Dr Maura Pellegrini (PI).
2011-2012 Boise Research Fund, Dietary ecology of Australopithecus afarensis from stable light isotope analysis of fossils from the Upper Laetoli Beds (PI).
2011-2012 John Fell Research Fund, Exploring strontium isotope distributions in tooth crown sequences of migratory and non-migratory fauna from Laetoli, Tanzania, (PI).
2011-2012 Leakey Foundation, Dietary ecology of Cross River gorillas from stable isotopes (PI).
2011-2012 British Academy, Ranging behaviour of Equus and Cervus from the Late Glacial site of Settecanelle (PI).
2010-2012 Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovation, Spain, Life history strategies in sympatric primates – Co- Investigator.
Fluorescence screening of collagen preservation in tooth dentine
Czermak, A, Schermelleh, L, Lee-Thorp, J
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Intra-annual variation in diets of Plio-Pleistocene papionins from Kenya
Blumenthal, SA, Cerling, TE, Chritz, KL, Lee-Thorp, JA, Manthi, F
Seasonal scheduling of shellfish collection in the Middle and Later Stone Ages of southern Africa.
Loftus, E, Lee-Thorp, J, Leng, M, Marean, C, Sealy, J
J Hum Evol
This study assesses the seasonal scheduling of shellfish harvesting among hunter-gatherer populations along the southernmost coast of South Africa, based on a large number of serial oxygen isotope analyses of marine mollusk shells from four archaeological sites. The south coast of South Africa boasts an exceptional record of coastal hunter-gatherer occupation spanning the Holocene, the last glacial cycle and beyond. The significance of coastal adaptations, in this region in particular, for later modern human evolution has been prominently debated. Shellfishing behaviors are an important focus for investigation given the dietary and scheduling implications and the abundant archaeological shell remains in numerous sites. Key to better understanding coastal foraging is whether it was limited to one particular season, or year-round. Yet, this has proven very difficult to establish by conventional archaeological methods. This study reconstructs seasonal harvesting patterns by calculating water temperatures from the final growth increment of shells. Results from two Later Stone Age sites, Nelson Bay Cave (together with the nearby Hoffman's Robberg Cave) and Byneskranskop 1, show a pronounced cool season signal, which is unexpected given previous ethnographic documentation of summer as the optimal season for shellfishing activities and inferences about hunter-gatherer scheduling and mobility in the late Holocene. Results from two Middle Stone Age sites, Klasies River and Pinnacle Point 5-6, show distinct seasonal patterns that likely reflect the seasonal availability of resources in the two locations. The Pinnacle Point 5-6 assemblage, which spans the MIS5-4 transition, records a marked shift in shellfishing seasonality at c. 71 ka that aligns with other indications of archaeological and environmental change at this time. We conclude that the scheduling and intensity of shellfishing in this region is affected by a suite of factors, including environmental and cultural drivers, rather than a single variable, such as population growth.
Later Stone Age, Middle Stone Age, Oxygen isotopes, Sclerochronology, Seasonality, Shellfishing
From texts to teeth: A multi-isotope study of sheep and goat herding practices in the Late Bronze Age (‘Mycenaean’) polity of Knossos, Crete
Isaakidou, V, Styring, A, Halstead, P, Nitsch, E, Stroud, E, le Roux, P, Lee-Thorp, J, Bogaard, A
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
The ups & downs of Iron Age animal management on the Oxfordshire Ridgeway, south-central England: A multi-isotope approach