Julia Lee-Thorp does science at the interface of archaeology, geochemistry, palaeontology and environmental science. Her curiosity is mostly directed towards understanding the way the world and its inhabitants have changed over time – she believes strongly that we have to study the past in order to gain a good understanding of what drives interacting evolutionary, cultural, climate and environmental changes. She has concentrated on the use of stable light isotope chemistry tools to address these problems. One rewarding application based mostly on stable isotope archives in fossil tooth enamel, is to the diets of hominids and fauna from South African sites dating back to the Pliocene. She and her collaborators are currently attempting to derive more detailed information about hominin ecology, using ultra-high resolution stable light isotope, elemental, and 87Sr analyses of teeth to tell us about seasonal variations in dietary ecology. A closely coupled interest is reconstructing the ancient environments occupied by hominins and other fauna during the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene, in order to try to understand how climate and environmental changes may (or may not) have influenced evolutionary pathways. The rarity of detailed, continuous climate records for southern Africa has led to her involvement in diverse research projects, including palaeoceanographic studies and the development of rare continuous continental proxies, such as speleothem records. Julia has recently moved from her professorship position at the University of Cape Town to a new chair of Archaeometry at Bradford University, UK.
Contact: LEE-THORP Julia