Mobility and exile at 2nd century A.D. khirbet edh-dharih: Strontium isotope analysis of human migration in western Jordan



The 2nd century A.D. Roman annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom may have resulted in significant settlement disruption. Here we investigate the possibility that political refugees occupied Khirbet edh-Dharih after Roman takeover, using strontium isotope analysis of archaeological human dental enamel. We additionally discuss regional patterning of 87Sr/86Sr in western Jordan based on archaeological faunal dental enamel samples to understand strontium isotope spatial heterogeneity and to facilitate interpretation of the Dharih results. Strontium isotope analysis of small mammal dentition varied as expected based on bedrock geology, but small faunal sample sizes did not accurately reflect the broad range of biologically available strontium at Dharih. Only one person at Khirbet edh-Dharh appears to be non-local based on isotopic data. The status of the remaining individuals is unclear, as they could have originated from Dharih or the Nabataean capital city of Petra. Incorporating modern fauna and soil samples to establish the local value may assist in characterizing the local strontium in a geologically complex area such as Dharih. Futhermore, future analysis of elemental strontium to assess dietary composition and diagenetic contamination would facilitate interpretation of the strontium sources in the Dharih individuals. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.