Laboratoire méditerranéen de préhistoire Europe Afrique (LAMPEA) — UMR 7269 — Université d’Aix-Marseille, CNRS, INRAP

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Description of Biochemistry Unit

Permanent staff

 Guy ANDRE – Engineer CNRS
 Gwenaëlle GOUDE – Researcher CNRS
 Estelle HERRSCHER – Researcher CNRS

Established in 2010, the Biochemistry Unit of the LAMPEA is dedicated to research activities in Physical Anthropology and Bioarchaeology. The unit facilitates preparation of archaeological materials, such as human, animal and plant remains, for stable isotope analysis (C, N, S, O), and more recently for Sr analysis, to study paleodiet, palaeoenvironment and human behavior through time and space.

Research activities supported by the unit include archaeological case studies across entire France (e.g. Southern France, Auvergne, Normandy, Isère, Paris Basin, Corsica) and in other countries (e.g., Balkans, Caucasus, Czech Republic, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Pacific Islands, Peru, Switzerland and Siberia).

Sample preparation

The unit allows sample preparation, such as collagen and apatite extraction, micro-sampling or laser-ablation sample pretreatment, for bio- and geochemical anlytical tests.

The available laboratory equipment includes fume hood for chemical treatment, ultrasonic bath, sandblaster, vibratory micro mill, centrifuges, heating block, freeze dryer, –80°C freezer, laboratory refrigerator, drying cabinets, sterilizer, safety cupboard, washer-disinfector, analytical balance, microbalance, and water filtration system.
The unit also supports the preparation of thin sections of many materials (precision micro-saw), preparation of casts, coating and polishing.

Technique of sequential micro-sampling

A recent addition to the scope of work supported by the Biochemistry Unit is research on carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes using the technique of sequential micro-sampling of human tooth dentine from middle Holocene hunter–gatherers in the Baikal region.

The goal of this work is to establish high-resolution dietary history of early human life from birth to c. 15–20 years of age (Scharlotta et al. 2018a, 2018b, Goude et al. 2020).

Extraction of Strontium & Calcium

In 2020, the Biochemistry Unit at LAMPEA acquired new technical skills to infer on palaeomobility issues thanks to a technical competence transfer from LGL-TPE (Coll. Vincent Balter) realised to the LAMPEA by Marie Linglin (PhD Sutdent), Christina Cheung (post-doc ANR NEOGENRE) and Leïa Mion (CDD CNRS).
Located in one of the ARKAIA labs (MMSH, Aile C), this new lab is specifically installed with a fume hood compatible with strong acid, implemented with two acid distillers (HCl, HNO3). This clean-room is equipped with two laminar flow clean air benches fitted with HEPA filter to permit the extraction of strontium and calcium. Samples are then sent for analysis, for instance to the National CNRS-INSU platform at Lyon. A test run and first samples were prepared with success for the NEOGENRE Project and a AMU doctoral research.

The Biochemistry Unit has been supported through grants from Aix-Marseille University, CNRS INEE, A*MIDEX, ANR (ORIMIL, NEOGENRE, HOMES), Institut Danone France/Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale.