Assistant Professor
Director, Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry Laboratory


Name and appointments 


Laurie Reitsema, Assistant Professor 

Director, Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry Laboratory 




Ph.D. Anthropology, Anatomy minor. The Ohio State University 2012.   



I study human diet as a link between biology, culture and environment, focusing on stable isotope analysis of archaeological human skeletal remains. My bioarchaeological work is informed by ties to human biology and primatology. I chiefly work with European skeletal samples, and also use stable isotope analysis to study diet and stress among modern humans and non-human primates. The Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry Laboratory is equipped to facilitate a wide variety of sample preparation for isotopic analyses, ranging from mineralized tissues, to soft tissues, to plant tissues. Some current projects are described below. 


Research Areas and Interests 

Biological anthropology 


Stable isotope biogeochemistry 

Diet and nutrition 

Physiological adaptation and developmental plasticity 

Colonization and culture contact 

Europe, southeastern United States 



Research projects 

I. Bioarchaeology 

Colonization and culture contact: I am involved with two projects currently examining the health and lifestyle consequences of culture contact, using data encoded in human skeletal remains. I am a co-director of the Bioarchaeology of Mediterranean Colonies Project (BMCP), in collaboration with the University of Northern Colorado, and investigate diet change and the role of migration in the context of ancient Greek colonization through isotopic analysis (C, N, O, Sr). Isotopic techniques can identify “locals” from “non-locals” in the colony cemeteries, toward better characterizing the extent of migration, and who was migrating (men, women, children). Isotopic data are used in tandem with bioarchaeological estimations of stress, relatedness, and health at both colonies and mother-cities, estimations of cultural affiliation through mortuary analysis, and with ancient DNA evidence for ancestry. This research is funded by the NSF REU Site: Immersive Research in the Bioarchaeology of Greek Colonization, [HYPERLINK: ] which brings eight undergraduate students to the Mediterranean each summer to undertake independent research. 

Additionally, I study change and continuity in diet and health associated with European contact in the New World in the 16th c. AD. The Georgia coast was the site of a Spanish mission in the 16-17th c. and indigenous inhabitants of the region were strongly impacted by culture contact. My bioarchaeological and archaeological research on St. Catherines Island in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History and other institutions sheds light on the lived experiences of non-dominant populations that have left no modern-day cultural descendants. 

II. Diet, Physiology, Life History, and Health 

Early-life nutrition is implicated in a broad spectrum of later-life outcomes and mortality. Current research in the laboratory compares cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from multiple tissue types toward understanding diet's role in growth and development and early mortality in the southeastern United States, Poland, and the Mediterranean region (Greece, Italy, Albania). 

Stable isotope ratios in animal tissues reflect diet, but also are impacted by physiological status. The Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry laboratory is equipped to work with a variety of biological materials from living humans and non-human primates. A particular area of interest, in addition to diet and mobility in the past, is the application of stable isotope analyses to modern human populations and primates to understand physiology, stress and disease.  

III. Primate Weaning and Dietary Ecology 

In addition to studying weaning trajectories of past human populations using mineralized tissues, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis can reveal diet and weaning among living non-human primates. Ultimately, long-term effects of early versus late weaning can be explored, once weaning trajectories are precisely mapped. Current research in the lab in collaboration with Stony Brook University, Duke University, and the University of Michigan examines the social context and biological outcomes of weaning among wild gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) from the highlands of Ethiopia.   





2016 University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award 


2012-2014 American Association of Physical Anthropologists Early Career Mentoring Award 



Grant Support 


National Science Foundation 

Leakey Foundation 

Southeastern Conference 



Selected publications 

2016Reitsema, L.J., G. Vercellotti, R. Boano. Subadult Dietary Variation at Medieval Trino Vercellese, Italy, and Its Relationship to Adult Diet and Mortality. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 160:653–664. * 


2016Reitsema, L.J., K. A. Partrick, A. B. Muir. Inter-Individual Variation in Weaning among Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta): Serum Stable Isotope Biomarkers of Suckling Duration and Lactation. American Journal of Primatology 78:1113–1123. * 


2015Reitsema, L.J., T. Brown, C.S. Hadden, R.B. Cutts, M.E. Little, B.T. Ritchison. Provisioning an Urban Economy: Isotopic Perspectives on Landscape Use and Animal Sourcing on the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Southeastern Archaeology 34(3):237-254. * 


2015Reitsema, L.J. Laboratory and Field Methods for Stable Isotope Analysis in Human Biology. American Journal of Human Biology 57 (5): 593-604. * ** 

2014Reitsema, L. J. and B. K. McIlvaine. Reconciling “Stress” and “Health”: What Can Bioarchaeologists Learn from the Other Subdisciplines? American Journal of Physical Anthropology 155 (2): 181–185. *  

2013Reitsema, L.J. and T. Kozłowski. Diet and Society in Poland Before the State: Stable Isotope Evidence from the Wielbark Population at Rogowo. Anthropological Review: 76 (1): 1-22. * ** 


2013Reitsema, L. J. and T. Kozłowski, D. Makowiecki. Human-Environment Interactions in  

Medieval Poland: A Perspective from the Analysis of Faunal Stable Isotope Ratios.  Journal of Archaeological Science, 40: 3636-3646. * 


2013Reitsema, L. J. Beyond Diet Reconstruction: Stable Isotope Applications to Human Physiology, Health and Nutrition. American Journal of Human Biology, 25: 445-456. *  


2012Reitsema, L. J. Introducing Fecal Stable Isotope Analysis in Primate Weaning Studies.   

American Journal of Primatology 74: 926-939. * 


2012Reitsema, L. J. and G. Vercellotti.  Stable Isotope Evidence for Sex- and Status-Based Variations in Life-History and Diet at Medieval Trino Vercellese, Italy.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 148: 589-600. * 


2011Reitsema, L. J. and D.E. Crews. 2011. Oxygen Isotope as a Biomarker for Sickle Cell Disease? Results from Transgenic Mice Expressing Human Hemoglobin S Genes.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 145: 495-498. * 


2010Reitsema, L. J. and D.E. Crews, M. Polcyn. 2010. Preliminary Evidence for Medieval Polish Diet from Carbon and Nitrogen Stable Isotopes.  Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 1413-1423. * 



Current Graduate Students 

Carey Garland 

Sammantha Holder 

Katie Reinberger 

April Smith