Applications of Isotope Research in Zooarchaeology

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

Recent advances in stable isotopic analysis have enabled zooarchaeologists to explore previously unanswerable questions regarding past human and animal relationships. Stable isotope investigations using ancient bone and shell remains have the potential to assess a number of diverse social and biological topics, including diet and foodway practices, status and differential provisioning, exchange patterns, animal rearing and hunting techniques, biological consequences of domestication, and short and long term environmental changes. This session examines several applications of animal isotopic analysis from across the globe and from both prehistoric and historic eras.

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  • Documents (15)

  • Biomolecular Approaches to Documenting Ancient Maya Turkey Husbandry and Use (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erin Thornton. Kitty Emery. John Krigbaum. Camilla Speller.

    The turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is the only domesticated vertebrate to originate from North America. Accurate reconstructions of turkey husbandry and use are thus critical for understanding the domestication process in the ancient Americas. Isotopic and genetic (aDNA) research has yielded substantial insights into the history of turkey use and domestication in the American Southwest, but such methods have not been widely used in Mesoamerica to date, despite the fact that all modern domestic...

  • Discriminating Tastes: Intra-Species Variation in Exploited Fauna at Mycenae, Greece (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gypsy Price.

    This paper demonstrates how integrating isotopic analyses and more traditional zooarchaeological methods can help to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Isotopic ratios from species known to have been purposefully managed establish inter- and intra-taxonomic variation from which management practices may be inferred. These management practices reflect decision making processes enacted by producers and consumers responsible for procuring fauna for occasions of consumption. This paper...

  • An Examination of Economic Specialization in the Early Bronze Age City of Tell es-Safi Using Isotopic Analysis of Ovicaprines (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Arnold. Haskel Greenfield. Aren Maeir.

    Early urban economies during the Early Bronze Age of the southern Levant are often treated as if they relied upon locally-available food resources that were largely produced at the household level, such as the herding of domestic livestock around the periphery or territory of the city-state. In this paper, we investigate whether the pastoral component of economies was a small-scale local affair or was conducted remotely, which would have involved productive specialists such as nomadic...

  • Fodder and Water: Isotope Analysis of Livestock Enamel in Southwest Spanish Colonial Settlements in the Pimeria Alta (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicole Mathwich. Alexander Ruff. Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman.

    The introduction of livestock to the Pimeria Alta in the 18th-century dramatically shifted resource use in the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Cruz River Valley. Colonial and indigenous politics and economics were transformed as a result of the presence and uses of these animals, but it is relatively unknown how O’odham people in the Santa Cruz Valley balanced the grazing and watering needs of livestock with the needs of farming and seasonal wild food gathering in the arid region. Using carbon and...

  • From Scatterplots to Statistics: Identifying the Local Isotope Range in Multivariate Data (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Benjamin Valentine. Penny Jones. Erik Otárola-Castillo.

    In recent decades, isotopic assays of strontium, lead, and oxygen in biological remains have revolutionized archaeological migration studies by providing direct evidence for the occurrence, timing, and geographic origins of individual residence change. Such research requires the clear identification of ‘local’ isotopic baselines for comparison against assayed individuals, and yet no single method to accomplish this task has emerged as best practice. Some researchers advocate the use of commensal...

  • Isotopes and Environments: Exploring Palaeoenvironmental Change during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic in the Cantabrian Region, Northern Spain (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer Jones. Ana B. Marin Arroyo. Michael Richards.

    The Cantabrian region Northern Spain was an archaeologically important region throughout the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, and was home to some of the last surviving Neanderthals in Europe, and during the Last Glacial Maximum the region acted as a refugium for plants, animals and humans. Changes in the environment are thought to have been driving factors behind the extinction of the Neanderthals, the rise of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs), and later the development of the rich cave art...

  • Isotopic Evidence of Animal Management and Long-Distance Exchange at the Maya Site of Ceibal, Guatemala (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ashley Sharpe.

    Animal management and resource exchange are essential to the development of state-level societies. Archaeological evidence for these activities has been particularly difficult to track in the Maya area, but recent advances in isotopic research may allow a novel opportunity to observe these practices. This study reviews new evidence for animal management and long-distance exchange at the lowland site of Ceibal, Guatemala, a large Maya community occupied throughout the Preclassic and Classic...

  • Lamb of God: Caprine use in a Jesuit Church in Early Colonial Ayacucho, Peru (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ellen Lofaro. Jorge Luis Soto Maguino. John Krigbaum.

    Known as La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus de Huamanga, the earliest Jesuit church in Ayacucho, Peru was built in 1605 directly off the main plaza. While famous for its baroque art, this standing church with a practicing congregation is in need of extensive renovations. As one of the first steps in a planned future restoration project, archaeological salvage was conducted in 2008, and uncovered human and faunal remains underneath the church floor, which were associated with various ceramic,...

  • Land-Use and Social Networking of the Indus Civilization Explored with Stable Isotopes in Faunal Remains (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chase Brad. Brad Chase. David Meiggs. P. Ajithprasad.

    The region of Gujarat was the southernmost extension of the Indus Civilization (2600-1900 B.C.), South Asia’s first experiment with urban society. In this region, distinctively Indus material culture was made and used at a series of small, monumentally walled manufacturing and trading centers situated along coastal trade and travel corridors that have often been interpreted as colonies established to facilitate the exploitation of the region’s rich natural resources. With the decline of Indus...

  • Large changes environmental changes following commercial whaling in the Eastern Canadian Arctic (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paul Szpak.

    Stable isotope records from dovekie (Alle alle), ringed seal (Pusa hispida) and bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) bones recovered from archaeological sites in eastern North American High Arctic (northwestern Greenland and eastern Canadian Arctic) reveal little auks declined an entire trophic level in the 20th century, following stability between the 12th and early 20th centuries. Conversely, bowhead whale trophic level remained stable and ringed seal trophic level slightly increased across the...

  • A Preliminary Isotopic Investigation into Ancient Maya Fish Trade (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Petra Cunningham-Smith.

    The ancient coastal Maya fished for food and trade to the heavily populated cities that lay many miles inland. At these inland cities, marine fish were an elite and symbolic product often included in burials and caches. Although the use of marine resources in both coastal and inland Maya communities has been well documented, actual fishing and trading practices are poorly understood. This paper explores the potential of using stable isotope analysis to answer questions related to the use and...

  • Stable Isotopes and the Dynamics of Human-Animal Relationships (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Holly Miller. Naomi Sykes.

    A central focus of stable isotope analysis in archaeology has always been to reconstruct human diet, with faunal samples examined primarily to better understand the human data. This paper will challenge this precept and highlight that important information about human-animal relationships can be obtained from isotope studies if the animals are viewed as individuals in their own right, as opposed to mere background data. Using several species as case-studies, this paper will examine how stable...

  • Tethered, Ad Hoc, Resilient, or Structured? An Isotopic Investigation of Pastoral Strategies in Montane Ecosystems of Central Asia (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Taylor Hermes. Michael Frachetti. Farhod Maksudov. Alexei Mar'yashev. Paula Doumani Dupuy.

    This paper focuses on tracking the mobility and diets of domesticated animals using isotopic analysis. We present two archaeological contexts from mountain regions of Central Asia: 1) A 9th-10th century (medieval) iron smelting town located at 2000 masl in the Zaamin Mtns. of Uzbekistan and 2) a series of Bronze Age (2500-1200 BCE) pastoral settlements located between 900 and 1500 masl in the Dzhungar Mtns. of eastern Kazakhstan. We are curious about pastoral productivity as it relates to social...

  • Understanding the Neolithic Transition: Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Analysis of Subneolithic and Neolithic Animals and Inhabitants of the SE Baltic Coast (3200-2500 cal BC) (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tosha Dupras. Gytis Piliciauskas. Rimantas Jankauskas. Giedre Piliciauskiene.

    The Neolithic transition in the boreal zone of the Baltic region deviated significantly from the “classic” European model, and in 2014-2015 a multidisciplinary research project targeting why this occurred was undertaken. Twenty-one 14C AMS dates were obtained for 11 Late Mesolithic– Early Bronze Age (7000-1000 cal B.C.) graves and for 6 human bones found in settlements or refuse layers. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes analyses of bone collagen were conducted for 40 human bones and teeth from...

  • Using Organic Compound-Specific Stable Isotope Ratios to Identify Animals in Prehistoric Foodways of Southeast Asia (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michelle Eusebio. Philip Piper. Fredeliza Campos. Andrew Zimmerman. John Krigbaum.

    Recent advances in isotopic analysis have enabled archaeologists to move beyond subsistence and diet toward the full chaîne opératoire of foodways that includes inference of past culinary practices. Together with faunal identification, isotopic analysis of organic residues derived from ancient pottery helps to create linkages between material culture (i.e., pottery) and how animals were prepared and consumed, which, in turn, may be used to infer aspects of identity. Isotopic databases of modern...