Clue to a People's Origins

Clue to a People's Origins

Video. This clip is all about strontium analysis of teeth and what it can tell us about an individual and the specific results uncovered by our team. Strontium occurs naturally in the earth and is absorbed into the bodies of infants through a mother’s breast milk. Scientists have been collecting data to be able to give exact strontium levels for any place on Earth.


9 - 12+


Anthropology, Biology, Geology, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies, World History

The Himalayas contain many unique and ancient cultures. Recently, a team of researchers and mountaineers led by archaeologist Dr. Mark Aldenderfer began unraveling mysteries surrounding peoples who lived thousands of years ago in the caves of Nepal's Upper Mustang region.

Aldenderfer led a 20-day expedition to the Upper Mustang to explore mysterious communal graves discovered in the 1990s. The skeletons and burial artifacts were found in caves on the sides of cliffs. To identify possible burial sites, Aldenderfer and his team, including bioarchaeologist Dr. Jackie Eng and seven-time Everest climber Pete Athans, combed the region for deep caves on the brink of collapse. The bones that Aldenderfer's team collected, thought to be the mysterious Membrak people, were then cleaned, pieced together, and analyzed.

This video is about strontium analysis of teeth, what it can tell us about an individual, and the specific results uncovered by Aldenderfer's team. Strontium is an element that occurs naturally in the earth and is absorbed into the bodies of infants through water and mother's milk. Today, scientists can determine exact strontium levels of almost any place on Earth.

The strontium levels of Upper Mustang have been documented, and Aldenderfer's team has been documenting strontium in local species like mice and snails. This helps them to determine the exact variables for the mortuary cave locations.

Media Credits

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Hannah Herrero
National Geographic Society
Anne Haywood, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Explorer
Dr. Mark Aldenderfer, Archaeology
Last Updated

September 27, 2022

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