Identifying migrants in Roman London using lead and strontium stable isotopes
Shaw et al
The ancient settlement of Londinium (London) has long been characterized as a major commercial and bureaucratic centre of the Roman province of Britain (Britannia). Primary source information indicates that people were drawn to the city from around the Empire. Mortuary and archaeological material evidence also attest to its cosmopolitan nature and have long been used to characterize the people who are buried in Londinium and identify where they may have originated. Within the past decade, researchers have successfully applied isotopic analyses of strontium and oxygen to human remains from various settlements in Roman Britain in order to identify the migrant status of the inhabitants. Recent studies have highlighted the utility of lead isotopes for examining past mobility, particularly for the Roman period. The aim of this project, therefore, was to apply lead and strontium isotope analyses to dental enamel samples from twenty individuals excavated from Londinium. The results suggest that the geographic origins of the population of Roman London varied, comprising individuals local to Londinium and Britannia, but also from further afield in the Empire, including Rome. The findings from this study are a valuable addition to the growing stable isotope dataset that is helping to characterize the nature of migration in Roman Britain, and this has broader implications for interpreting the relationship of migration and identity in the province.