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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-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 indi- viduals, we measured isotopes of strontium (87Sr/86Sr), oxygen (del-18O), and carbon (del-13C), as well as barium (Ba) and stron- tium (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 del-18O, are probably immigrants, three of which were buried in a distinctive position (supine, with the head to the south) with higher Ba/Sr and del-13C, consistent with a terres- trial, 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
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


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