The research we conduct at VU Earth Science is primarily fundamental, but contributes directly or indirectly to several of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, including “affordable and clean energy”, “climate action”, “Responsible consumption and production”, “Life and land” and “Life below water”. Our research in Theme 4 explores novel applications of fundamental Earth Science knowledge and measurement techniques to societal questions on the sustainable use of natural resources and the monitoring and mitigation of climate change.
Besides research that relates to contemporary societies, Theme 4 also focuses on the scientific analysis of archaeological material, cultural heritage, and forensic research. Archaeology is undergoing a Third Science Revolution in a move to more quantitative research methods. The use of stable and radiogenic isotope analysis in the last 30 years has radically enhanced the interpretative potential of environmental archaeological remains. In addition to contributing to our understanding of ancient population dynamics, the social implication of the research is of paramount importance. The data we accumulate, the mechanisms we identify, and the network we mobilise enable us to use the living past to meet the challenges that Europe and the world faces today.
The tendency for isotope analysis to become an indispensable method in archaeological research has continued in cultural heritage research and forensic investigation. The Isotope Archaeology & Forensics group at VU is the only research unit in the Netherlands with the requisite staff, experience, and facilities to carry out these varied geochemical analyses.