Sophie G. Habinger

PhD Candidate

Raum S535
Hölderlinstr. 12
72074 Tübingen

Fields of Interest

  • Paleoenvironmental and paleodiet reconstructions
  • Stable isotope and dental microwear texture analysis
  • Interaction of humans with nature, landscape, and animals
  • Organisation of ecosystems and niche partitioning
  • Primate evolution and ecology

Curriculum vitae

2019 – present  PhD student at the University of Tübingen, Germany (AG Biogeology) and the University of Poitiers, France (Laboratoire PALEVOPRIM).
Supervisors: Prof. Hervé Bocherens and Dr. Olivier Chavasseau
2016 – 2019 M.Sc. degree in Archaeological Sciences – Archaeometry, University of Tübingen, Germany
2012 – 2016 B.A. degrees in Urgeschichte und Historischer Archäologie and Deutsche Philologie, University of Vienna, Austria

Scientific Activities


Pondaung Formation, Myanmar Paleontological fieldwork with the Myanmar-French paleontological team, 2020
Schörfling and Weyregg am Attersee, Austria Underwater excavation of the pile dwelling settlements, 2015 and 2016
Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus Bronze Age settlement, 2014
Hornsburg, Austria Neolithic ring ditch, 2013 and 2014

Conference participation

Meeting StEvE 2020 Presentation on the evolutionary Ecology of K. ayeyarwadyensis
PALEO VC 2020 Poster on preliminary results from Eocene and Miocene Myanmar
EAA 2019 Presentation on mobility of Roman camels

PhD project

Evolutionary Ecology of fossil primates in Southeast Asia

Evolutionary Ecology of fossil primates in Southeast Asia


During the Cenozoic, Southeast Asia was a key area for mammal evolution in general, and primate evolution in particular. Important episodes of diversification and evolution of anthropoids and hominoids took place there. The focus of our project is the evolutionary ecology of these fossil primates and the associated fauna. Until now, only the paleoecology of the Miocene hominoid Sivapithecus from the Siwaliks of India and Pakistan (12-9 Ma) was studied in depth using isotopic tracking. We performed isotopic paleoecological tracking on the fossil tooth material recovered by the Myanmar-French paleontological team from the middle Eocene Pondaung Formation (40 Ma) and the late Miocene Irrawaddy Formation (10-9 Ma), both located in the Central Basin of Myanmar.

Our goal is to shed light on the ecological structure of the mammalian communities around the Eocene anthropoid and Miocene hominoid primates. Carbon and oxygen isotopic analyses on the tooth enamel carbonates of the ungulates from the Pondaung Formation (Anthracotheriidae, Amynodontidae, Brontotheriidae and the chalicothere Eomoropus) point towards an open forest habitat. Also, serial sampling on some of the teeth revealed a sinusoidal pattern of variation, confirming seasonality and monsoon-like events already for the middle Eocene. Oxygen isotopic results suggest semi-aquatic habitats for the Amynodontidae, but not for the anthracotheres, in contrast with more recent members of this group.

All analysed taxa from the Miocene Irrawaddy Formation lived in a pure C3 forested environment with no evidence of open habitat with C4-plants. Carbon and oxygen isotopic data of Khoratpithecus tooth enamel are consistent with a canopy habitat and a diet essentially frugivorous, as suggested by tooth wear analysis on other fossils of this group.

The combination of isotopic analyses with dental microwear texture analysis will enable us to further differentiate the various niches occupied by the different species and understand the dynamics of these ecosystems.


Master thesis

Mobility and origin of camels in the Roman Empire through serial stable carbon and oxygen isotopes variations in tooth enamel


Although camels are not indigenous to Europe, they have been found at several sites from several Roman provinces dating from the beginning of the 1st century AD onwards. It must have been beneficial to bring them there. Based on finds of remains from juvenile individuals (e.g. from Tanais), it has been suggested that the Romans might have systematically bred camels within Europe. For this study we took serial samples of the enamel of four camels from European sites (Innsbruck-Wilten, Mamer-Bertrange, Tongeren, and Trier) dating to the 2nd - 4th century AD. We measured the relative abundances of carbon and oxygen isotopes of the carbonate fraction from the tooth enamel. The continuous record of oxygen and carbon isotopic composition of the intra tooth enamel serial samples reflects the climate and habitat in which an individual lived during the time of tooth mineralization. We used these data to make a rough evaluation of the areas of origin consistent with the relative abundances of the isotopes from the enamel of the camels and attempt to reconstruct their life history and mobility behavior based on the different ecological characteristics of the habitats represented in the isotopic data. Furthermore, the data can function as an additional proxy for species determination, due to the different habitats of Camelus bactrianus and Camelus dromedarius. This work also yields interesting insights on the similarities in the mobility pattern of the camels from Mamer-Bertrange and Trier. In combination with archaeological evidence, it was possible to connect them tentatively with specific military units, i.e. the detachments of the Legio VIII Augusta.


Habinger, S. G., De Cupere B., Dövener, F., Pucher, E., Bocherens, H. (2020) : Mobility and origin of camels in the Roman Empire through serial stable carbon and oxygen isotope variations in tooth enamel. Quaternary International 557, pp. 80 – 91.

Engels, E., Etzler, S., Habinger, S., Kálmánova, L., Theune, C. (2016): Ein Latrinenbefund aus Salzburg, Sternbräu. Beiträge zur Mittelalterarchäologie in Österreich 32, pp. 197 – 224.