Michael Richards

My research is in the field of archaeological science, which is the application of methods developed in biology, physics and chemistry to archaeology and anthropology. My particular expertise is in isotope analysis as a means of reconstructing past human and animal diets and migrations. My main research interest is in the range and variety of modern human diets, and how our diets have evolved and changed over time. My recent research has mainly focused on two key transitions: The expansion of modern humans into Eurasia and the adoption of agriculture in Europe and Asia.

Research Projects

My groups current research focuses on exploring human dietary adaptations through time, with particular geographical and temporal focus on:

The Pacific Northwest

South Pacific

Europe: Neanderthals and early modern humans and the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods


We are also undertaking a number of strontium isotope projects to explore human mobility in many areas of the world, especially the areas listed above.

We are also exploring the use of new isotope systems such as sulphur oxygen and hydrogen in organics as a means of dietary and mobility reconstruction.

Additionally, we work with the BC Coroner’s office applying isotope techniques as a means of identifying human remains from forensic contexts.

We have a dynamic research group with Masters, PhD and postdoctoral researchers. If you are interested in becoming a graduate student at UBC and joining our group please contact me.

My research mainly focusses on exploring how human diets have changed and evolved through time.  This includes looking at the dietary adaptations of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, the adoption and spread of agriculture in Europe and China, as well as the wide variety and range of human dietary adaptations around the world in the Holocene (the past 10,000 years).

This research involves the application of scientific methods to address these issues, especially the application of isotope analysis.  This method can also be used to indicate human and animal migrations and movements in the past, and we are increasingly exploring this topic through these methods.

I joined the UBC Department of Anthropology in 2009 from the Max Planck Institution for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.  I completed my undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., before going to the UK for my PhD (University of Oxford) and subsequent academic appointments at the Universities of Bradford and Durham in the UK.

I am also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


For the most up-to-date list of publications please see my Google Scholar publication profile here


  • Hublin, J-J. and M.P. Richards (eds.) (2009). The Evolution of Hominid Diets: Integrating approaches to the study of Palaeolithic subsistence. Springer.

 Selected journal articles (past five years):

  • 1.              Benazzi, S., Bailey, S.E., Peresani, M., Mannino, M.A., Romandini, Richards, M.P. and J.-J. Hublin (2014). Middle Paleolithic and Uluzzian human remains from Fumane Cave, Italy. Journal of Human Evolution 70:61-68.

    2.              Sealy, J., Malia Johnson, M., Richards, M.P., and O. Nehlich (2014). Comparison of two methods of extracting bone collagen for stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis: comparing whole bone demineralization with gelatinization and ultrafiltration. Journal of Archaeological Science

    3.              Hartman, G. and M.P. Richards (2014). Mapping and defining sources of variability in bioavailable strontium isotope ratios in the Eastern Mediterranean. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 126:250-264

    4.              Salazar-García, D.C., Richards, M.P., Nehlich, O. and A.G. Henry (2014). Dental calculus is not equivalent to bone collagen for isotope analysis: a comparison between carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis of bulk dental calculus, bone and dentine collagen from same individuals from the Medieval site of El Raval (Alicante, Spain). Journal of Archaeological Science 47:70-77.

    5.              Fahy, G. E., Richards, M. P., Fuller, B. T., Deschner, T., Hublin, J. J., & Boesch, C. (2014). Stable nitrogen isotope analysis of dentine serial sections elucidate sex differences in weaning patterns of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 153:635-642.

    6.              Oelze, V.,  Head, J., Robbins, M., Richards, M. and C. Boesch (2014). Niche differentiation and dietary seasonality among sympatric gorillas and chimpanzees in Loango National Park (Gabon) revealed by stable isotope analysis. Journal of Human Evolution 66:95-106. 

    7.              Benazzi, S., Peresani, M., Talamo, S., Fu, Q., Mannino, M. A., Richards, M. P., & Hublin, J. J. (2014). A reassessment of the presumed Neandertal remains from San Bernardino Cave, Italy. Journal of Human Evolution 66:89-94.

    8.              Quintelier, K., Ervynck, A., Müldner, G., Van Neer, W., Richards, M.P., and B. Fuller (2014). Isotopic examination of links between diet, social differentiation, and DISH at the post-medieval Carmelite Friary of Aalst, Belgium. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 153: 203-213.

    9.              Salazar-García, D. C., Aura, J. E., Olària, C. R., Talamo, S., Morales, J. V., & Richards, M. P. (2014). Isotope evidence for the use of marine resources in the Eastern Iberian Mesolithic. Journal of Archaeological Science 42:231-240.

    10.           Bollongino, R., Nehlich, O., Richards, M.P., Orschiedt, J., Thomas, M.G., Sell, C., Fajkosová, Z., Powell, A. and J. Burger (2013). 2000 years of parallel societies in Stone Age Central Europe. Science 342:479-81.  

    11.           Britton, K., Knecht, R., Nehlich, O., Hillerdal, C., Davis, R.S., and M.P. Richards (2013). Maritime adaptations and dietary variation in prehistoric Western Alaska: Stable isotope analysis of permafrost-preserved human hair. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 151:448-461.

    12.           Salazar-García, D. C., Aura, J. E., Olària, C. R., Talamo, S., Morales, J. V., & Richards, M. P. (2014). Isotope evidence for the use of marine resources in the Eastern Iberian Mesolithic. Journal of Archaeological Science 42:231-240.

    13.           Nehlich, O., Barrett, J. and M. Richards (2013). Spatial variability in sulphur isotope values of archaeological and modern cod (Gadus morhua). Rapid Communications in  Mass Spectrometry 27:2255–2262.

    14.           Ostapkowicz, J., Bronk-Ramsey, C., Brock, F., Cartwright, C., Stacey, R. and M.P. Richards (2013). Birdmen, cemís and duhos: material studies and AMS 14C dating of Pre-Hispanic Caribbean wood sculptures in the British Museum, Journal of Archaeological Science 40:4675-4687.

    15.           Soressi, M.,  McPherron, S., Lenoire, M., Dogandžić, T., Goldberg, P., Jacobs, Z.,  Maigroti, Y., Martisius, N., Miller, C., Rendu, W., Richards, M., Skinner, M., Steele, T., Talamo, S., and  J-P. Texier (2013). Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 110: 14186–14190

    16.           Choy, K., Jung, S., Nehlich, O., and M.P. Richards (2013). Stable Isotopic Analysis of Human Skeletons from the Sunhung Mural Tomb, Yeongju, Korea: Implication for Human Diet in the Three Kingdoms Period. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology doi: 10.1002/oa.2303.

    17.           Bourbou, C., Fuller, B., Garvie-Lok, S., and M.P.Richards (2013). Nursing mothers and feeding bottles: reconstructing breastfeeding and weaning patterns in Greek Byzantine populations (6th–15th centuries AD) using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios. Journal of Archaeological Science 40: 3903-3913.

    18.           Fahy, G., Richards, M.P., Riedel, J., Hublin, J-J. and C. Boesche (2013). Stable isotope evidence of meat eating and hunting specialization in adult male chimpanzees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 110: 5289-5833.

    19.           Fernández-López de Pablo, J., Salazar-García, D., Subirà-Galdacano, M., Roca de Togores, C., Gómez-Puche, M., Richards, M.P., and M. Esquembre-Bebiá (2013) Late Mesolithic burials at Casa Corona (Villena, Spain): direct radiocarbon and palaeodietary evidence of the last forager populations in Eastern Iberia, Journal of Archaeological Science 40:671-680

    20.           Mannino, M., Catalano, G., Talamo, S., Mannino, G., Di Salvo, R., Schimmenti, V.,  Lalueza-Fox, C., Messina, A., Petruso, D., Caramelli, D., Richards, M.P. and L. Sineo (2012) Origin and diet of the prehistoric hunter-gatherers on the Mediterranean island of Favignana (Ègadi Islands, Sicily). PLoS ONE 7(11): e49802. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049802

    21.           Hublin, J-.J., Talamo, S., Julien, M., David, F., Connet, N., Bodub, P., Vandermeersch, B., and M. P. Richards (2012). Radiocarbon dates from the Grotte du Renne and Saint-Césaire support a Neandertal origin for the Châtelperronian. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 109: 18743-18748.

    22.           Fuller, B. T., De Cupere, B., Marinova, E., Van Neer, W., Waelkens, M. and Richards, M. P. (2012) Isotopic reconstruction of human diet and animal husbandry practices during the Classical-Hellenistic, imperial, and Byzantine periods at Sagalassos, Turkey. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149:157–171.

    23.           Oelze, V. M., Koch, J. K., Kupke, K., Nehlich, O., Zäuner, S., Wahl, J., Weise, S. M., Rieckhoff, S. and Richards, M. P. (2012). Multi-isotopic analysis reveals individual mobility and diet at the early iron age monumental tumulus of Magdalenenberg, Germany. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 148: 406–421.

    24.           Deschner, T., Fuller, b., Oelze, V., Boesch, C., Hublin, J-J., Mundry, R., Richards, M.P.,  Ortmann, S., and G. Hohmann (2012). Identification of energy consumption and nutritional stress by isotopic and elemental analysis of urine in bonobos (Pan paniscus).  Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 26: 69-77.

    25.           Nehlich, O., Fuller, B. T., Márquez-Grant, N. and Richards, M. P. (2012), Investigation of diachronic dietary patterns on the islands of Ibiza and Formentera, Spain: Evidence from sulfur stable isotope ratio analysis. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149: 115–124.

    26.           McPherron, S., Talamo, S., Goldberg, P., Niven, L., Sandgathe, D., Richards, M.P., Richter, D., Turq, A., and H. Dibble (2012) Radiocarbon dates for the late Middle Palaeolithic at Pech de l’Azé IV, France. Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 3436-3442.

    27.           Britton, K., Gaudzinski-Windheuser, S., Roebroeks, W., Kindler, L. and M. P. Richards (2012) Stable isotope analysis of well-preserved 120,000-year-old herbivore bone collagen from the Middle Palaeolithic site of Neumark-Nord 2, Germany reveals niche separation between bovids and equids. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

    28.           Mannino, M., Thomas, K., Leng, M., Di Salvo, R. and M. P. Richards (2011) Upper Stuck to the shore? Investigating prehistoric hunter-gatherer subsistence, mobility and territoriality in a Mediterranean coastal landscape through isotope analyses on marine mollusc shell carbonates and human bone collagen. Quaternary International 244:88-104.

    29.           Oelze, V., Nehlich, O, and M. Richards (2012) There’s no place like home: No isotopic evidence for mobility at the Early Bronze Age cemetery of Singen, Germany. Archaeometry.

    30.           Talamo, S., Soressi, M., Roussel, M., Richards, M., and J.J. Hublin (2012) A radiocarbon chronology for the complete Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transitional sequence of Les Cottés (France).  Journal of Archaeological Science 39:175-183.

    31.           Copeland, S., Sponheimer, M., de Ruiter, D., Lee-Thorp, J., Codron, D., le Roux, P., Grimes, V. and M. Richards (2011) Strontium Isotope Evidence for Early Hominin Landscape Use. Nature 474:76-78.

    32.           Nehlich, O., Fuller, B., Jay, M., Mora, Al, Nicholson, R., Smith, C. and M. P. Richards (2011) Application of sulphur isotope ratios to examine weaning patterns and freshwater fish consumption in Roman Oxfordshire, UK. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 75:4963-4977.

    33.           Mannino, M., Di Salvo, R., Schimmenti, V., Di Patti, C., Incarbona, A., Sineo, L., and M.  P. Richards (2011) Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer subsistence in Mediterranean coastal environments: an isotopic study of the diets of the earliest directly-dated humans from Sicily. Journal of Archaeological Science 38:3094-3100.

    34.           Bourbou, C., Fuller, B., Garvie-Lok, S., and M.P. Richards (2011) Reconstructing the diets of Greek Byzantine populations (6th–15th centuries AD) using carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 146:569-581.

    35.           Oelze, V., Fuller, B., Richards, M., Fruth, B., Surbeck, M., Hublin, J.J. and G. Gohmann (2011) Exploring the contribution and significance of animal protein in the diet of bonobos by stable isotope ratio analysis of hair. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 108:9792-9797.

    36.           Orton, D., Makowiecki, D., de Roo, T., Johnstone, C., Harland, J, Jonsson, L., Heinrich, D.,  Bødker Enghoff, I, Lõugas, L., Van Neer, W., Ervynck, A., Hufthammer, A-K., Amundsen, C., Jones, A., Locker, A., Hamilton-Dyer, S., Pope, P., MacKenzie, B.,  Richards, M., O’Connell, T., and J. Barrett (2011) Stable Isotope Evidence for Late Medieval (14th–15th C) Origins of the Eastern Baltic Cod (Gadus morhua) Fishery. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027568

    37.           Talamo, S. and M. Richards (2011) A Comparison of bone pretreatment methods for AMS dating of samples >30,000 BP. Radiocarbon 53: 443-449.

    38.           Britton, K., Grimes, V., Niven, L., Steele, T., McPherron, S., Soressi, M., Kelly, T., Jauber, J., Hublin, J.J. and M. Richards (2011) Strontium isotope evidence for migration in late Pleistocene Rangifer: Implications for Neanderthal hunting strategies at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Jonzac, France.  Journal of Human Evolution 61:176-185.

    39.           Barrett, J., Orton, D., Johnstone, C., Harland, J., Van Neer, W., Ervynck, A., Roberts, C., Locker, A., Amundsen, C., Enghoff, I., Hamilton-Dyer, S., Heinrich, D., Hufthammer, A., Jones, A., Jonsson, L., Makowiecki, D., Pope, P., O’Connell, T., de Roo, T., and M. Richards (2011). Interpreting the expansion of sea fishing in medieval Europe using stable isotope analysis of archaeological cod bones, Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 1516-1524.

    40.           D’Andrea, C., Richards, M.P., Pavlish, L.A., Wood, S., Manzo, A., and H.S. Wolde-Kiros (2011) Stable isotopic analysis of human and animal diets from two pre-Aksumite/Proto-Aksumite archaeological sites in northern Ethiopia. Journal of Archaeological Science 38: 367-374.

    41.           O’Connor, S., Barham, A., Aplin, K., Dobney, K., Fairbairn, A. and M.P. Richards (2011). The power of paradigms: Examining the evidential basis for early to mid-Holocene pigs and pottery in Melanesia. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 2:1-25.

    42.           Reich, D., Green, R., Kircher, M., Krause, J., Patterson, N., Durand, E., Viola, B., Briggs, A., Stenzel, U., Johnson, P., Maricic, T., Good, J., Marques-Bonet, T., Alkan, C., Fu, Q.,  Mallick, S., Li, H., Meyer, M., Eichler, E., Stoneking, M., Richards, M., Talamo, S., Shunkov, M., Derevianko, A., Hublin, J.-J., Kelso, J., Slatkin, M. and S. Paabo (2010) Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Nature 468:1053-1060.

    43.           Choy, K., Smith, C., Fuller, B., and M.P. Richards (2010) Investigation of amino acid d13C signatures in bone collagen to reconstruct human palaeodiets using liquid chromatography–isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 74: 6093–6111.

    44.           Copeland, S.R., Sponheimer, M., Lee-Thorp, J.A., le Roux, P.J., de Ruiter, D.J., and M. P. Richards (2010) Strontium isotope ratios in fossil teeth from South Africa: assessing laser ablation MC-ICP-MS analysis and the extent of diagenesis. Journal of Archaeological Science 37:1437-1446.

    45.           Choy, K., and M. P. Richards (2010) Isotopic evidence for diet in the Middle Chulmun period: a case study from the Tongsamdong shell midden, Korea. Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences 2:1-10.

    46.           Needham, S., Parker-Pearson, M., Tyler, A., Richards, M., and M. Jay (2010) A first ‘Wessex 1’ date from Wessex. Antiquity 84: 363–373.

    47.           Fuller, B., Márquez-Grant, N., and M.P. Richards (2010)  Investigation of diachronic dietary patterns on the islands of Ibiza and Formentera, Spain: evidence from carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratio analysis. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 143:512-522.

    48.           Choy, K., Jeon, O., Fuller, B.T., and M. P. Richards (2010) Isotopic evidence of dietary variations and weaning practices in the Gaya cemetery at Yeanri, Gimhae, South Korea. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 142:74-84.

    49.           Nehlich, O., Borić, D., Stefanović, S., and M. P. Richards (2010) Sulphur isotope evidence for freshwater fish consumption: a case study from the Danube Gorges, SE Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 1131-1139.

    50.           Le Bras-Goude,  G., Binder, D., Zemour, A., and M.P. Richards (2010). New radiocarbon dates and isotope analysis of Neolithic human and animal bone from the Fontbregoua Cave (Salernes, Var, France) Journal of Anthropological Sciences 88:167-178.

    51.           Vika, E., Aravantinos, V. and M.P. Richards (2009) Aristophanes and stable isotopes: a taste for freshwater fish in Classical Thebes, (Greece). Antiquity 83:1076–1083.

    52.           Hublin, J.J., Weston, D. Gunz, P., Richards, M.P., Roebroeks, W.,Glimmerveen, J. and L. Anthonis (2009) Out of the North Sea: the Zeeland Ridges Neandertal. Journal of Human Evolution 57:777-785.

    53.           Richards, M.P. and E. Trinkaus (2009) Isotopic evidence for the diets of European Neandertals and early modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 106:16034-16039.

    54.           Hu, Y., Shang, H., Tong, H., Nehlich, O., Liu, W., Zhao, C., Yu, J., Wang, C., Trinkaus, E., and M. P. Richards (2009) Stable Isotope Dietary Analysis of the Tianyuan 1 Early Modern Human. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 106:10971-10974.

    55.           Balasse, M., Mainland, I., and M.P. Richards (2009). Stable isotope evidence for seasonal consumption of marine seaweed by modern and archaeological sheep in the Orkney archipelago (Scotland). Environmental Archaeology 14:1-14.

    56.           Smith, C., Fuller, B., Choy, K. and M.P. Richards (2009) A three phase liquid chromatographic method for δ13C analysis of amino acids from biological protein hydrolysates using LC-IRMS. Analytical Biochemistry 390:165-172.

    57.           Nehlich O., Montgomery J., Evans J., Schade-Lindig S., Pichler S., Richards M.P., and K. Alt  (2009) Mobility or Migration – A case study from the Neolithic settlement of Nieder-Mörlen (Hessen, Germany). Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1791-1799.

    58.           Hu, Y., Luan, F., Wang, S., Wang, C., and M. P. Richards (2009) Preliminary attempt to distinguish the domesticated pigs from wild boars by the methods of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis. Science in China Series D-Earth Sciences 52: 85-92.

    59.           Richards, M., Grimes, V., Smith, C., Smith, T., Harvati, K., Hublin, J.J., Karkanas, P., and E. Panagopoulou (2009) Response to Nowell and Horstwood. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1657-1658.

    60.           Garcia-Guixé, E., Martínez-Moreno, J., Mora, R., Núñez, M. and M.P. Richards (2009) Stable isotope analysis of human and animal remains from the Late Upper Palaeolithic site of Balma Guilanyà, southeastern Pre-Pyrenees, Spain. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1018-1026.

    61.           Britton, K., Grimes V., Dau, J., and M.P. Richards (2009) Reconstructing faunal migrations using intra-tooth sampling and strontium and oxygen isotope analyses: a case study of modern caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti). Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1163-1172.

    62.           Ingvarsson-Sundstrom, A., Richards, M.P., and S. Voutsaki (2009) Stable isotope analysis of the Middle Helladic population from two cemeteries at Asine: Barbouna and the East Cemetery. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 9:1-14.

    63.           Nielsen-Marsh. C., Stegemann. C., Hoffmann, R., Smith, T., Feeney, R., Toussaint, M., Harvati, K., Panagopoulou, E., Hublin, J.J., and M. P. Richards (2009) Extraction and sequencing of human and Neanderthal mature enamel proteins using MALDI-TOF/TOF MS. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1758-1763.

    64.           Choy, K. and M.P. Richards (2009) Stable isotope evidence of human diet at the Nukdo shell midden site, South Korea. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:1312-1318.

    65.           Nehlich, O., and M.P. Richards (2009). Establishing collagen quality criteria for sulphur isotope analysis of archaeological bone collagen. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 1:59–75.

    66.           Richards, M.P., West, E., Rolett, B., and K. Dobney (2009) Isotope analysis of human and animal diets from the Hanamiai archaeological site (French Polynesia). Archaeology in Oceania 44:29-37.

    67.           Schulting, R.J., and M.P. Richards (2009) Radiocarbon dates and stable isotope values on human remains. In: A. Ritchie (ed.), On the Fringe of Neolithic Europe. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 139:67-74.

    68.           Schulting, R. and M.P. Richards (2009). Dogs, divers, deer and diet. Stable isotope results from Star Carr and a response to Dark. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:498-503.

    69.           Corr, L.T., Richards, M.P., Grier, C., Mackie, A., Beattie, O. and R. P. Evershed (2009) Probing dietary change of Kwädąy Dän Ts’ìnchį, an ancient glacier body from British Columbia: II. Deconvoluting whole skin and bone collagen δ13C values via carbon isotope analysis of individual amino acids Journal of Archaeological Science 36:12-18.