Project 2 – Geochemistry & Archaeometry

Full Professor

Gareth Davies is one the four PI’s of Nexus 1492 and Head of the Deep Earth and Planetary Science research cluster at the Faculty of Earth and Life Science of the VU University Amsterdam. His expertise is in petrology and isotope geochemistry with an initial background in the study of volcanic processes. He has a track record of applying techniques in innovative ways across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Current work outside the traditional geological realm includes applications in archaeology, art history, environmental, forensic, food and material science. He took over as Prof of Petrology in 1993 and has subsequently built up the group from 4 to over 30 while also introducing new research fields in Isotopic Provenancing and Planetary Science.

In the Nexus project Gareth will the group applying modern geochemistry techniques to determine the provenance of human remains and archaeological artefacts.

Contact information:
Mail: Gareth Davies
Phone: +31 20 59 87329
External Profile: Gareth Davies


Janne Koornneef is an isotope geochemist who is specialised in studying the composition of the Earth’s mantle and the volcanic rocks derived from it. Currently she works as a post-doc on technique development using the latest generation Thermal Ionisation Mass Spectrometer (TRITON-Plus TIMS) to measure small geological, environmental and archaeological samples for their Sr, Nd and Pb isotope compositions. In collaboration with the manufacturer of the instrument she tests the latest design 10e12 and 10e13 Ohm feedback resistors that allow analyses of sub nanogram samples at higher precision.

In the Nexus project Janne will work on technique development to analyse trace element and isotope compositions of archaeological samples. One of the new techniques to be developed is to use a portable laser system to sample materials in the Caribbean (e.g. in museums) and to analyse these in the labs at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Contact information:
Mail: Janne Koornneef
Phone: +31 20 59 81824
External Profile: Janne Koornneef
Personal Website: Janne Koornneef


Jason Laffoon holds concurrent positions as a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University and the VU University Amsterdam. He obtained his BA (2004) and MA (2006) in Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his PhD in Caribbean Archaeology (2012) from Leiden University. His main research interests focus on the application and development of isotope analyses to archaeological research, particularly in the Caribbean.

For the NEXUS1492 project, his research will primarily focus on applying multiple isotopic analyses (C-N-O-Sr) of skeletal remains to examine transformations in patterns of human mobility and diet across the historical divide. This study builds on large isotope databases (C-N-O-Sr) from the Caribbean and will primarily focus on: 1) the integration of multiple isotope analyses to individual human remains; 2) serial sampling of different skeletal materials (enamel, dentine, bone) from the same individuals; and 3) expansion of these applications to individuals and burial populations spanning the late pre-colonial and early colonial periods. This research will be conducted in close collaboration with the various biogeochemical, archaeometric, bioarchaeological, and DNA projects and these combined datasets will be integrated within broader archaeological and inter-disciplinary frameworks.

Contact information:
Mail UL: Jason Laffoon
Mail VU: Jason Laffoon
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 3486
External Profile: Jason Laffoon

PhD student

Alice Knaf is a PhD researcher at the Deep Earth and Planetary Science cluster at the Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She obtained her Bachelor degree in Geosciences (2009) at the LMU and the TU Munich (Germany) and a Master degree in Geochemistry and Geology (2011) at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland). After her graduation she joined AF Consult in Switzerland and worked there in the field of hydrogeology and radioactive waste disposal.

Within the Nexus 1492 she focuses on technique optimization of a portable in-situ laser system, as well as on the development of essentially non-destructive, analytical methods using sub nanogram amounts of strontium, neodymium and lead. Her main research interest lies in the geochemical characterization (isotopic and elemental composition analyses) of raw materials and artefacts of the Caribbean region. She will use multi isotopic and elemental methodologies (e.g. XRF, XRD, Nano-SIMS, LA-ICP-MS, Raman) for provenancing materials and objects to quantify possible changes in trading routes associated with and following initial European contact in the Caribbean.

Contact information:
Mail: Alice Knaf
Phone: +31 20 59 88614
External Profile: Alice Knaf

PhD student

Esther Plomp is a PhD researcher in the Deep Earth and Planetary Science research group at the VU University within the ERC Synergy project NEXUS 1492 since September 2013. She studied Archaeology at Leiden University and holds a Bachelor’s (2011) and Research Master’s [MPhil] (2013) degree.

Esther’s previous research was into the relationships between humans and dogs in the circum-Caribbean combining archaeological, ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources as well as strontium isotopic analysis. Within NEXUS 1492 she is investigating the possibilities of applying innovative isotopic analyses on modern and archaeological human remains. Her research interests include isotopic analyses, biomolecular archaeology, human osteology, and anthrozoology.

Contact information:
Mail: Esther Plomp
Phone: +31 20 59 87148
External Profile: Esther Plomp