Judith Sealy


archaeology dept, beattie bldg, rm 3.25.1

phone: +27 21 650-4064

fax: +27 21 650-2352

email: Judith.Sealy AT uct.ac.za

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More information about the Stable Isotope Laboratory can be found on our laboratory website.



My research interests include the development and application of stable isotope techniques for dietary reconstruction, hunter-gatherer archaeology across the period from the emergence of modern humans to the recent past, and the beginnings of food production in Africa.  Current research projects include (i) diets and settlement patterns of hunter-gatherers and pastoralists on the southern coast of South Africa (ii) development of new stable isotope analytical methods. 


Judith Sealy is Professor and Head of the Department of Archaeology at UCT, and also holds overall academic responsibility for the Stable Light Isotope laboratory. Professor Sealy received her undergraduate and post-graduate training in this department, gaining her MSc (with distinction) in 1984 and her PhD in 1989 for a thesis entitled ‘Reconstruction of Later Stone Age diets in the south-western Cape, South Africa: evaluation and application of five isotopic and trace element techniques’. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and of the University of Cape Town. She currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Archaeological Science, Azania and Southern African Humanities, and is a former Editor of the South African Archaeological Bulletin and Associate Editor of Archaeometry.

Selected publications:

Loftus, E.J. & Sealy, J. 2012. Interpreting stable carbon isotopes in human tooth enamel: an examination of tissue spacings from South Africa. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147: 499-507.

Sealy, J. & Galimberti, M. 2011. Shellfishing and the interpretation of shellfish sizes in the Middle and Later Stone Ages of South Africa. In: N.F. Bicho, J.A. Haws & L.G. Davis (eds) Trekking the Shore: Changing Coastlines and the  Antiquity of Coastal Settlement: 405-419. New York: Springer. ISBN 978 1 4419 8218 6

Codron, J., Codron, D., Lee-Thorp, J.A., Sponheimer, M., Kirkman, K., Duffy, K.J. & Sealy, J. 2011. Landscape-scale feeding patterns of African elephant inferred from carbon isotope analysis of feces. Oecologia 165: 89-99.

Sealy, J. 2010. Isotopic evidence for the antiquity of cattle-based pastoralism in southernmost Africa. Journal of African Archaeology 8(1): 65-81.

Ribot, I., Morris, A.G., Sealy, J. & Maggs, T. 2010. Population history and economic change in the last 2000 years in KwaZulu-Natal, RSA. Southern African Humanities 22: 89-112.

Hine, P., Sealy, J., Halkett, D. & Hart, T. 2010. Antiquity of stone-walled tidal fish-traps on the Cape coast, South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 65: 35-44.

Styring, A.K., Sealy, J.C. & Evershed, R.P. 2010. Resolving the bulk δ15N values of ancient human and animal bone collagen via compound-specific nitrogen isotope analysis of constituent amino acids. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 74: 241-251.

Chase, B.M., Meadows, M.E., Scott, L., Thomas, D.S.G., Marais, E., Sealy, J. & Reimer, P.J. 2009. A record of rapid Holocene climate change preserved in hyrax middens from southwestern Africa. Geology 37(8): 703-706.  

Lee-Thorp, J.A. & Sealy, J.C. 2008. Beyond documenting diagenesis: the Fifth International Bone Diagenesis Workshop. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology  266:129-133.

Stynder, D.D., Ackermann, R.R. & Sealy, J.C. 2007. Craniofacial variation and population continuity during the South African Holocene. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 134(4):489-500.

Sealy, J. 2006. Diet, mobility and settlement pattern among Holocene hunter-gatherers in southernmost Africa. Current Anthropology 47:569-595.

Sealy, J., Ludwig, B. & Henderson, Z. 2006. New radiocarbon dates for Matjes River Rock Shelter. South African Archaeological Bulletin 61:98-101.

Clayton, F., Sealy, J. & Pfeiffer, S. 2006. Weaning age among foragers at Matjes River Rock Shelter, South Africa, from stable nitrogen and carbon isotope analyses. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 129:311-317.

Pfeiffer, S. & Sealy, J. 2006. Body size among Holocene foragers of the Cape ecozone, southern Africa. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 129:1-11.

Corr, L.T., Sealy, J.C., Horton, M.C. & Evershed, R.P. 2005. A novel marine dietary indicator utilizing compound-specific bone collagen amino acid δ13C values of ancient humans. Journal of Archaeological Science 32:321-330.

Sealy, J., Maggs, T., Jerardino, A. & Kaplan, J. 2004. Excavations at Melkbosstrand: variability among herder sites on Table Bay, South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 59:17-28.

Henshilwood, C.S., D’Errico, F., Yates, R., Jacobs, Z., Tribolo, C., Duller, G.A.T., Mercier, N., Sealy, J.C., Valladas, H., Watts, I. & Wintle, A.G. 2002. Emergence of modern human behaviour: Middle Stone Age engravings from South Africa.  Science 295:1278-1280.


Henshilwood, C.S., Sealy, J.C., Yates, R., Cruz-Uribe, K., Goldberg, P., Grine, F.E., Klein, R.G., Poggenpoel, C., van Niekerk, K. & Watts, I. 2001. Blombos Cave, southern Cape, South Africa: preliminary report on the 1992-1999 excavations of the Middle Stone Age levels. Journal of Archaeological Science 28:421-448.


Cox, G., Sealy, J., Schrire, C. & Morris, A. 2001.  Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic analyses of the underclass at the colonial Cape of Good Hope in the 18th and 19th century.  World Archaeology 33:73-97.