Marissa Vink


My main research interests lie in the reconstruction of daily life behaviour of our early ancestors and change therein over time. Seeing as diet is an integral part of daily life, the reconstruction of dietary change over time interests me greatly, specifically animal resource consumption. The onset of meat consumption is often considered a major catalyst of important events in human evolution. However, the who, where, and when is still heavily debated. The new “oxidation-denitrification” method, which allows us to measure mineral-bound nitrogen isotopes in tooth enamel, provides the opportunity to study this dietary change directly.

The main goal of my PhD project is to better understand the position of Plio-Pleistocene Sterkfontein hominins in their food webs, as well as the change of this position over time, based on stable carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotopes preserved in faunal and hominin tooth enamel. I focus on two parts of the Sterkfontein site, namely the Jacovec Cavern (date to ~3.6 Ma) and Member 5 (2.18 to 1.4 Ma). Australopithecus fossils were found in the Jacovec Cavern, while the older part of Member 5 (the Oldowan infill) contains Paranthropus fossils, and the younger part (the Member 5 West Acheulean infill) contains Homo fossils. This site thus presents the unique opportunity to analyse all three hominin genera at the same locality, providing a better understanding of dietary change over time and new insights into the onset and evolution of animal resource consumption by our early ancestors.


2023 – present

PhD candidate, Emmy Noether Group for Hominin Meat Consumption at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany. “How did the trophic behavior of Sterkfontein hominins change over time?” (Supervisors: Dr. T. Lüdecke & Prof. T. Tütken)

2021 – 2023

Research Master of Science Archaeology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. “Stable carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen isotope analysis of serially-sampled fossil tooth enamel from equid third molars from the Eemian site of Neumark-Nord 2, Germany.”

2018 – 2021

Bachelor of Arts World Archaeology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. “Pathology of Australopithecines (4.2-1.2 Mya).”

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