Julia Lee-Thorp

Prof. Julia Lee-Thorp

Professor of Archaeological Science FBA

Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art
Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Rd, Oxford, OX1 3QY

phone: 01865 285213

fax: 01865 285220

email: julia.lee-thorp@rlaha.ox.ac.uk

Associated Research Projects


2014-          NERC CORE panel member, Panel E

2012-          NERC Isotope Geosciences Facility Steering Committee 

2011-2013  NERC Peer Review College

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.

Research Interests

Diets of early hominins and more recent human groups; African archaeology; African palaeoclimates and environments; palaeoenvironmental shifts associated with archaic and modern humans; dispersals; stable isotope ecology.

Primary Geographic Areas of Interest

Africa, Europe

Current grants

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.

2010  John Fell Fund, funding for new mass spectrometer (PI)

2009-2012  Leverhulme Major Award. Evaluating hunter gatherer subsistence patterns - Co-Investigator.

2009-2012  NERC standard grant Building a better eggtimer? Co-Principal Investigator.

Current projects

  • The Wonderwerk Project (CI with Chazan, Horwitz et al)
  • Palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental context of the origins of modern humans in coastal South Africa (with Marean et al).
  • The Late Glacial/Holocene transition in Lesotho (with Mitchell)
  • The Palaeodeserts Project, Arabia (with Petraglia et al)
  • Environments and isotopic ecology of the Upper Laetoli Beds: contributions to understanding the ecology of Australopithecus afarensis (with Musiba, Magori)
  • Paleoecology of Central African hominins in Chad (with Brunet,  Likius, Mackaye, Vignaud)
  • Reassessing the chronology, composition and climatic implications of three Neandertal and early modern human sites from France (with Morin)
  • Dietary seasonality and life history strategies in primates (with Macho et al).


Journal Articles & Conference Proceedings

2013    Sponheimer, M., Z. Alemseged, T. Cerling, F.E. Grine, W.H. Kimbel, M.G. Leakey, J.A Lee-Thorp, F. K. Manthi, K.E. Reed, B. A. Wood 2013. Isotopic evidence of early hominin diets. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 10 (26): 10513-10518

Roberts, P., J. A. Lee-Thorp, P.J. Mitchell, C. Arthur 2013. Stable carbon isotopic evidence for climate change across the late Pleistocene to early Holocene from Lesotho, southern Africa.  Journal of Quaternary Science 28 (4): 360–3

Beaumont, J., A. Gledhill, J.A. Lee-Thorp, J. Montgomery 2013. Childhood diet: A closer examination of the evidence from dental tissues using stable isotope incremental analysis of human dentine. Archaeometry 55: 277-295

Beaumont, J., J. Geber, N. Powers, A. Wilson, J.A. Lee-Thorp, J. Montgomery 2012. Victims and survivors: Stable isotopes used to identify migrants from the Great Irish Famine to 19th Century London. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 150: 87 – 98

Codron, J., J. A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer, D. Codron  2013. Plant stable isotope composition across habitat gradients in a semi-arid savanna: implications for environmental reconstruction. Journal of Quaternary Science 28(3): 301–310

Codron, J., K. Kirkman, K.J. Duffy, M. Sponheimer, J.A. Lee-Thorp, A. Ganswindt, M. Clauss, D. Codron 2013. Stable isotope turnover and variability in tail hairs of captive and free-ranging African elephants (Loxodonta africana) reveal dietary niche differences within populations. Can. J. Zool. 91: 124-134.


Lee-Thorp, J.A., A. Likius, T.S. Mackaye, P. Vignaud, M. Sponheimer, M. Brunet 2012. Isotopic evidence for an early shift to C4 resources by Pliocene hominids in Chad, Proceedings of the Nationary Academy of Science 109 (50): 20369-20372

Codron, J., D. Codron, M. Sponheimer, K. Kirkman, K.J. Duffy, E.J. Raubenheimer, J-L. Me'lice, R. Grant, M. Clauss, J.A. Lee-Thorp 2012. Stable isotope series from elephant ivory reveal lifetime histories of a true dietary generalist. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 279: 2433-2441

Grine, F.E., M. Sponheimer, P.S. Ungar, J.A. Lee-Thorp, M.F. Teaford 2012. Dental microwear and stable isotopes inform the palaeoecology of extinct hominins. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 148: 285-317

Sandberg P., B. Passey, J.A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer, P. Ditchfield, D. van Gerven 2012. Intra-tooth stable isotope analysis of human dental tissues: Laser ablation of enamel and serial sections of dentine collagen in permanent first molars and canines, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147 (S54): 257


Copeland, S.R., M. Sponheimer, D. de Ruiter, J.A. Lee-Thorp, D. Codron, P.J. le Roux, V. Grimes, M.P. Richards 2011. Strontium isotope evidence for early hominin landscape use. Nature, 474: 76-79.

Lee-Thorp, J.A. 2011. The demise of “Nutcracker man”,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (23): 9319-9320.

Mitchell P.J., I. Plug, G.B. Bailey, R. Charles, A. Esterhuysen, J.A. Lee Thorp, A.G. Parker, S. Woodborne 2011.  Fishing at the Place of the Tobacco Plants: a high-resolution open-air record of late Holocene hunter-gatherers from highland Lesotho. Antiquity 85:1225-1242

Mitchell P.J., I. Plug, G.B. Bailey, R. Charles, A. Esterhuysen, J.A. Lee Thorp, A.G. Parker, S. Woodborne 2011. Fishing at the Place of the Tobacco Plants: a high-resolution open-air record of late Holocene hunter-gatherers from highland Lesotho. Antiquity 85:1225–42

Parker, A.G., J.A. Lee-Thorp, P.J.Mitchell 2011. Late Holocene Neoglacial conditions from the Lesotho highlands, southern Africa: phytolith and stable carbon isotope evidence from the archaeological site of Likoaeng. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 122: 201–211

Pellegrini, M., J.A. Lee-Thorp, R.E. Donahue 2011. Exploring the variation of the relationship in enamel increments. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 310: 71 - 83

Pollard, M.P., M. Pellegrini, J.A. Lee-Thorp 2011. Some observations on the conversion of dental enamel to determine human mobility. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 145: 499-504


Bell, L.S., J.A. Lee-Thorp, A. Elkerton 2010. Sailing against the wind. Reply to Millard and Schroeder: ‘True British sailors’: A comment on the origin of the men of the Mary Rose. Journal of Archaeological Science 37:683-686

Codron, J., D. Codron, J.A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer, K. Kirkman, K.J. Duffy, J.C. Sealy 2010.  Landscape-scale feeding patterns of African elephant inferred from carbon isotope analysis of feces. Oecologia 165: 89-99

Copeland, S.R., M. Sponheimer, J.A. Lee-Thorp, D.J. de Ruiter, P.J. le Roux, V. Grimes, D. Codron, J. Codron, L.R. Berger, M.P. Richards 2010. Using strontium isotopes to study site accumulation processes. Journal of Taphonomy 8 (2-3): 115-127

Copeland, S.R., M. Sponheimer, J.A. Lee-Thorp, P.J. le Roux, D.J. de Ruiter, M.P. Richards 2010. Strontium isotope ratios in fossil teeth from South Africa: assessing laser ablation MC-ICP-MS analysis and the extent of diagenesis, Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 1437–1446

De Ruiter, D.J., S.R. Copeland, J.A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer 2010. Investigating the Role of Eagles as Accumulating Agents in the Dolomitic Cave Infills of South Africa. Journal of Taphonomy 8 (1-2): 129-154

Lee-Thorp, J.A., M. Sponheimer, B.H. Passey, D. De Ruiter, T.E. Cerling 2010. Stable isotopes in fossil hominin tooth enamel suggest a fundamental dietary shift in the Pliocene. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. B  365: 3389-3396

Smith, J.M., J.A. Lee-Thorp, S. Prevec, S. Hall, A. Späth. 2010. Pre-Colonial Herding Strategies in the Shashe-Limpopo Basin, southern Africa, based on strontium isotope analysis of domestic fauna. Journal of African Archaeology 8: 83-98


Codron, D., J. Codron, J.A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer, C.C. Grant, J.S. Brink 2009. Stable isotope evidence for nutritional stress, competition, and loss of functional habitat as factors limiting recovery of rare antelope in southern Africa. Journal of Arid Environments 73: 449-457

Holzkämper, S., K. Holmgren, J.A. Lee-Thorp, S. Talma, A. Mangini, T.C. Partridge,  2009. Late Pleistocene Stalagmite Growth in Wolkberg Cave, South Africa. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 282: 212-221

Ségalen, L., J.A. Lee-Thorp 2009.  Palaeoecology of late Early Miocene fauna in the Namib based on 13C/12C and 18O/16O ratios of tooth enamel and ratite eggshell carbonate. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 277: 191–198

Sponheimer, M., D. Codron, B.H. Passey, D.J. de Ruiter, T.E. Cerling, J.A. Lee-Thorp 2009. Using carbon isotopes to track dietary change in modern, historical, and ancient primates. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140: 661–670


Lee-Thorp, J.A. 2008. On isotopes and old bones, Archaeometry 50: 925–950

Bell, L.S., J.A. Lee-Thorp, A. Elkerton 2008. The sinking of the Mary Rose warship: a medieval mystery solved? Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 166-173

Codron, D., J.S. Brink, L. Rossouw, M. Clauss, J. Codron, J.A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer 2008. Functional differentiation of African grazing ruminants: an example of specialized adaptations to very small changes in diet. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 94: 755–764

Codron, D., J.A. Lee-Thorp, M. Sponheimer, D. de Ruiter, J. Codron 2008. What insights can baboon feeding ecology provide for early hominin niche differentiation? International Journal of Primatology 29: 757–772

Copeland S., M. Sponheimer, P.J. le Roux, V. Grimes, J.A. Lee-Thorp, D.J. de Ruiter, M.P. Richards 2008. Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) of tooth enamel: a comparison of solution and laser ablation multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry methods. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 22: 3187-3194

Copeland, S.R., M. Sponheimer, C.A. Spinage, J.A. Lee-Thorp 2008. Bulk and intra-tooth enamel stable isotopes of waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. African Journal of Ecology 46: 697–701

de Ruiter, D.J., M. Sponheimer, J.A. Lee-Thorp 2008. Indications of habitat association of Australopithecus robustus in the Bloubank Valley, South Africa, Journal of Human Evolution 55: 1015–1030

Fourie, N. H., J. A. Lee-Thorp, R.R. Ackermann 2008. Biogeochemical and craniometric investigation of dietary ecology, niche separation, and taxonomy of Plio-Pleistocene Cercopithecoids from the Makapansgat Limeworks. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 135: 121–135

Pellegrini, M., R.E. Donahue, C. Chenery, J. Evans, J.A. Lee-Thorp, J. Montgomery, M. Mussi 2008. Faunal migration in late-glacial central Italy: implications for human resource exploitation. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 22:1714–1726

Ségalen, L., M. de Rafélis, J.A. Lee-Thorp, A-F. Maurer, M. Renard 2008. Cathodoluminescence tools provide clues to depositional history in Miocene and Pliocene mammalian teeth. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 266: 246-253

Edited volumes, contributions to edited volumes


Sponheimer, M., J.A. Lee-Thorp, K. Reed, P. Ungar (Editors) 2013. Early Hominin Ecology University of Colorado Press, Boulder, pp. 1-470.

Lee-Thorp J.A., M. Sponheimer 2013. Hominin ecology from hard tissue biogeochemistry. In Sponheimer, M., J.A. Lee-Thorp, K. Reed, P. Ungar (Editors) Early Hominin Ecology, University of Colorado Press, Boulder, pp. 281-324.

Sponheimer M., J.A. Lee-Thorp, D. Codron 2013. A brief update on developments in early hominin biogeochemistry. In Armitage, R., et al (Ed.s) In Archaeological Chemistry VIII, ACS Symposium Series, American Chemical Society: Washington, DC. doi: 10.1021/bk-2013-1147.

De Ruiter, D.J., M. Sponheimer, J.A. Lee-Thorp 2012.  Animal palaeocommunity variability and habitat preference of the robust australopiths in South Africa.InS.C. Reynolds, A. Gallagher(Ed.s) African Genesis: Perspectives on Hominin Evolution.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 449-470.


Sponheimer, M. and Lee-Thorp, J.A. 2009. Biogeochemical evidence for the environments of early Homo in South Africa: in FE Grine et al. (Ed.s) The First Humans: Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, Springer Science pp 185-194.


Pellegrini, M., Donahue, R.E., Lee-Thorp, J.A., Evans, J. Montgomery, J., Chenery, C. and Mussi, M. 2008. L’uso degli isotopi nella ricostruzione delle migrazioni delle faune nel tardiglaciale: implicazioni sulle strategie di sussistenza dei cacciatori-raccoglitori in Italia Centrale. In M. Mussi (Ed.) Il Tardiglaciale in Italia – Lavori in corso. (BAR International Series 1859) Archaeopress, Oxford, pp 9-20.

School of Archaeology > People > Academic Staff > RLAHA : Julia Lee Thorp