ARI Seminar Series 2013 – 24 May


Investigating Carbon Isotopes of Amino Acids using Liquid Chromatography Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry: Archaeological and Palaeoecological Applications

Dr Colin Smith, La Trobe University, Victoria


Friday 24 May 2013

3-4 pm Environment 1_N55_Room 1.07

Griffith University, Nathan Campus



Liquid chromatography isotope ratio mass spectrometry (LC/IRMS) is a technique capable of measuring stable carbon isotope ratios of single components in complex aqueous samples. Compound specific analysis has been achieved for sugars, alcohol, amino acids and amino sugars applied to food authentication, environmental science, geochemistry and archaeology.

I will describe how we have been using this technique in our laboratory at La Trobe University to investigate ancient proteins, preserved in archaeological bone, tooth and hair in order to explore; the diet and subsistence economy of prehistoric Chileans at a fortnightly scale, the diet and health of historic famine victims and the quality of collagen preservation in contaminated ancient bone.

In addition, I will discuss the potential application of the technique to other less well characterized mineralized proteins in tissues such as corals, snail shell and eggshell and bulk carbon isotope analysis in stalagmites for palaeoenvironmental interpretation.

Speaker: Colin Smith’s primary research area is biomolecular archaeology, and in particular investigating the preservation of biomolecules (proteins and DNA) in archaeological skeletal tissue and how this affects the information they contain. He studied in the UK and has also conducted research at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (Madrid), in Uppsala and Stockholm Universities, Durham University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig). Previous research highlights include the development of the concept and models of ‘Thermal Age’ degradation of ancient DNA (with Professor Matthew Collins) as well as concepts of bone diagenesis and protein degradation (collagen and osteocalcin) in archaeological bone. His most recent research has focused on the application of stable isotope analysis to ancient proteins with a particular interest in analyzing them at the amino acid level. He is an ARC Future Fellow working on Molecular Archaeology: Carbon isotope analysis of amino acids as a means to investigate diets, physiology, metabolism and palaeoenvironment, and leads the LC-IRMS facility at La Trobe University.

Please direct any further enquiries to the Nathan Seminar Co-ordinator,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s