Identification of the geographical place of origin of an unidentified individual by multi-isotope analysis

L. Font Morales, G.J.Q. van der Peijl, C. van Leeuwen, I.A. van Wetten, G.R. Davies

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A multi-isotope investigation (Sr and Pb isotopes and δ18O, δ13C and δ15N) was applied to bone and teeth from an unidentified male found drowned in the"IJ" Ruyterkade in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in March of 1999. The individual remained unidentified until mid 2013, after the isotope study was completed. Coupled δ13C and δ15N values in bone collagen recovered from rib and femur are consistent with an omnivore living in a region where C3-type diet dominates (i.e. Europe). Integrated Sr and Pb isotopes and δ18O values in canine and third molar teeth and femur and rib bone data exclude extended residence in north-west Europe and particularly The Netherlands. Characteristic Pb isotope ratios coupled with inferred δ18O values of drinking water argue for a most probable place of origin for the unidentified individual in west and south Poland, south-east Slovakia and the region of Ukraine-Romania-Bulgaria, specifically the region associated with the Carpathian Mountains. Independent of the isotope study, the Cold Case Team made a positive identification with an individual from south-west Poland, validating the results of the multiple-isotopic approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-42
JournalScience and Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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