Strontium isotope analysis and human mobility during the Neolithic and Copper Age: A case study from the Great Hungarian Plain

Julia I. Giblin, Kelly Knudson, Zsolt Bereczki, György Pálfi, Ildikó Pap

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54 Scopus citations


From the Late Neolithic to the Early Copper Age on the Great Hungarian Plain (4500 BC, calibrated) a transformation in many aspects of life has been inferred from the archaeological record. This transition is characterized by changes in settlements, subsistence, cultural assemblages, mortuary customs, and trade networks. Some researchers suggest that changes in material culture, particularly the replacement of long-occupied tells with smaller, more dispersed hamlets, indicates a shift from sedentary farming villages to a more mobile, agropastoral society that emphasized animal husbandry and perhaps secondary products of domestication. In a previous study (Giblin, 2009), preliminary radiogenic strontium (87Sr/86Sr) isotope data from human dental enamel showed that Copper Age individuals expressed more variable isotope values than their Neolithic predecessors. These data provided support for the idea that Copper Age inhabitants of the Plain were acquiring resources from a greater geographic area, findings that seemed consistent with a more mobile lifestyle. In this article a larger sample from human and animal skeletal material is used to re-evaluate earlier work and shed new light on the transition from the Neolithic to the Copper Age in eastern Hungary. The expanded sample of strontium isotopes from human dental enamel shows that 87Sr/86Sr values are more variable during the Copper Age, but the change is more pronounced in the Middle Copper Age than in the Early Copper Age. These results, along with recently published complementary research, indicate that the transition from the Late Neolithic tell cultures of the Plain to the more dispersed Copper Age hamlets was more gradual than previously thought, and that the emergence of an agropastoral economy does not explain changes in settlement and material culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-239
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Copper Age
  • Hungary
  • Isotope
  • Mobility
  • Neolithic
  • Strontium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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