Methodological Advances in Isotopic Zooarchaeology

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

This session will explore new methodological advances in isotopic analysis using ancient animal remains to address key questions in human prehistory. Isotopic investigations in zooarchaeology have the potential to address diverse social and biological topics, including diet and foodway practices, hunting and procurement strategies, status and differential provisioning, exchange patterns, animal rearing and husbandry, biological consequences of domestication, and short and long term environmental changes. Examining these topics in past archaeological contexts is essential for understanding animal and human interactions in the present. Development of new methodologies in concert with traditional zooarchaeological analyses allow us to examine questions and issues regarding human ecology and environmental archaeology that were previously inaccessible.

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  • Documents (14)

  • The cultural ecology of Croatia’s cattle: stable isotope and zooarchaeological analyses of an indigenous breed (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Emily Zavodny. Sarah B. McClure.

    Here we present results from a preliminary stable isotope and zooarchaeology study of cattle from the Lika region of northern Croatia. During routine investigation of Bronze and Iron Age faunal assemblages, we identified bones belonging to a small unspecified cattle breed. These same specimens also have unexpected stable carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures, and are more similar to both domesticated and wild browsers than grazing cattle in other regions. We argue that these adaptations were...

  • Faunal management and human-landscape interactions at Ifugao, Luzon, Philippines (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chin-hsin Liu. Adam Lauer. Stephen B. Acabado. Katherine E. Quitmyer. John Krigbaum.

    One major contribution of the Ifugao Archaeological Project in the northern Philippines (Luzon) is associating the origins of the Ifugao wet-rice terrace complex with local resistance against Spanish colonial expansion. With the establishment of wet-rice agriculture in the highlands by the early 17th century, it is anticipated that the acquisition and management of fauna would have been modified to adapt to new strategies of crop production. In this context, it is hypothesized that changes in...

  • Influence of animal proxy choice on use of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen stable isotope ratios for determining past environmental variables (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Margaret Schoeninger. Corinna Most. James Moore. Andrew Somerville.

    The stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen (δ13C, δ15N, and δ18O values) in animal tissues show promise as environmental indicators. We evaluated the use of chimpanzee hair and leporid (jackrabbit and cottontail) bones. Chimpanzee hair δ13C values correlate negatively with mean annual precipitation (MAP) as expected based on isotope variation in C3 plants, whereas δ15N values do not because of diet selectivity. Leporid bone δ13C values do not correlate with MAP because of leporid...

  • Isotopic analyses of predatory pelagic fishes show significant environmental change in Lake Ontario following European settlement (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eric Guiry. Suzanne Needs-Howarth. Paul Szpak. Michale Richards.

    Isotopic analyses of archaeological faunal remains can add significant temporal depth to modern and historical baseline data, which play an important role in understanding present and future environmental change. In this paper, we use stable nitrogen isotope analyses of archaeological (A.D. 1000-1900) bone collagen of pelagic predators, such as lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and whitefishes (Coregonus sp.), as a proxy measure for environmental changes in Lake Ontario over time. Results show...

  • Isotopic Evidence for Long-Distance Mammal Procurement, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Deanna Grimstead. Jay Quade. Mary Stiner.

    Previous research on the prehistoric communities of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (ca. A.D. 800 – 1250) provides evidence of an extensive procurement system of non-local food and economic goods. In this paper we use oxygen, carbon, and strontium isotope analyses to establish whether animal protein followed a similar pattern. We contextualized our analyses of the archaeofaunas from recent excavations at Pueblo Bonito with data on modern faunas across an area of ~100,000 km2 around the site. Our...

  • Isotopic Perspectives on Animal Husbandry Practices (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paul Szpak.

    This paper presents carbon and nitrogen isotope data from camelid (llama and alpaca) bone, hair, and wool textiles from sites throughout the north coast of Peru spanning the Early Intermediate Period through the Late Intermediate Period (200 BC – AD 1476). Through these case studies this paper explores how stable isotope data can be interpreted using various statistical methods to infer a deeper understanding of human-animal interactions in the past than would be possible using only traditional...

  • Isotopic tracking of trophic relationships (predation, competition, commensalism) between paleolithic humans and predators (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hervé Bocherens. Dorothée Drucker. Martina Láznicková-Galetová. Mietje Germonpré. Christoph Wissing.

    Predators are usually considered not so informative in zooarchaeological investigations, except when their bones carry cut-marks. They are more viewed as a disturbing factor for the bone assemblage. However, tracking their paleoecology using stable isotopes in their bones can yield valuable information on several key aspects of their relationships with paleolithic human populations. Especially carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic composition in bone collagen of predators compared to those of...

  • Lead (Pb) Isotope Analysis as a Means of Tracking Animal Migration and Trade in Mesoamerica (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ashley Sharpe.

    This study examines the first use of lead (Pb) isotope analysis as a means of tracking animal movement and exchange in the Maya area. Strontium and oxygen isotope ratios have been previously used to track animal and human movements archaeologically in Mesoamerica. Lead has been used to track movement and exchange in other parts of the world, and its application to Mesoamerican archaeology holds great potential for refining sourcing strategies. This study identifies local and non-local fauna at...

  • Stable isotope analysis of animal diets at the Postclassic regional capital of Mayapan (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard George. Claire Ebert. Brendan Culleton. Marilyn Masson. Douglas Kennett.

    Subsistence economies during the Postclassic Period (ca. AD 1000-1524) in the northern Maya lowlands were shaped by a range of strategies that included agriculture, the cultivation of wild plants, hunting, trade and market exchange, and the management of animals. Stable isotope data from archaeological faunal remains offer important dietary information to reconstruct the subsistence strategies during this period. In this paper, we present paleodietary data from faunal remains recovered from...

  • Stable isotopic (δ13C and δ18O) and zooarchaeological insights into vertical transhumance of early Neolithic domesticated sheep and goats in southern Jordan (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Cheryl Makarewicz.

    Vertical transhumance provides livestock with consistent access to quality graze throughout the year and likely contributed to the intensification of livestock husbandry in the Near East over ten thousand years ago. Here, carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotopic time series obtained from sequentially sampled domesticated and wild herbivore teeth recovered from late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (ninth millennium cal BP) settlements, each located in the sharply divergent elevations of southern Jordan,...

  • Subsistence variations and landscape use of marine foragers in southern South America. New perspectives from an isotopic zooarchaeology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Atilio Zangrando. Augusto Tessone. Angélica Tivoli. Jonathan Nye. Suray Perez.

    Predictions based on resource distribution and abundance throughout patches (i.e. patch choice model) are critical to model human-specific decisions. However, information about past abundance or distribution of preys is rare, and archaeological evaluations are normally based on modern ecological parameters. This procedure can face some problems since species distributions are likely to have fluctuated along time as a consequence of different environmental factors, or as the product of human...

  • Theoretically informed isotope analysis: human-animal relationships at Fishbourne Roman Palace (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Holly Miller. Naomi Sykes.

    Stable isotope studies have become common-place in archaeological investigations of human diet and mobility, often underpinned by small comparative studies of associated animal remains which are generally utilised as baseline data. However, the value of moving beyond such anthropocentric studies and of analysing animals in their own right is becoming increasingly recognised. Detailed research on animal diet and mobility is enhancing our understanding of animal management and patterns of...

  • Using stable isotopes to explore ancient wildebeest mobility in the context of pastoral expansion (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anneke Janzen. Patrick Roberts. Nicole Boivin.

    The spread of pastoralism through Kenya may have been slowed by novel disease challenges presented to livestock by wild taxa. In particular, wildebeest-derived malignant catarrhal fever (WD-MCF), which is extremely fatal to cattle, would have been encountered by pastoralists for the first time as they moved south of the Lake Turkana Basin into the native range of East African wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). Today, migratory wildebeest have well-known annual migration patterns. However, while...

  • The Zooarchaeology and Isotopic Ecology of the Bahamian Hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michelle LeFebvre. Susan deFrance. George Kamenov. William Keegan. John Krigbaum.

    Bahamian hutia (Geocapromys ingrahami) are small sized rodents endemic to the Bahamas. Fossil and subfossil records indicate broad geographic distribution of the rodent across the Bahamas in the past, while today Bahamian hutia naturally occur on one island. Bahamian hutia have received little attention archaeologically resulting in critical gaps in our understanding of both natural and anthropogenic patterns in Bahamian hutia distribution and life history. In conjunction with "traditional"...