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Why terrestrial diets in island environments? Evolutionary considerations of isotopic results from Rapa Nui

Author(s): Thomas Larsen ; Hilary Close ; Terry Hunt ; Jarman Jarman ; Brian Popp

Year: 2015

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Summary

Archaeology and isotopic studies have demonstrated several examples of initial colonists of Pacific Islands subsisting mainly on terrestrial diets, with exotic domesticates preferred over local seafood. Seemingly a poor adaptation to remote island environments, this appears confusing from a behavioural ecology perspective. From a culture evolutionary viewpoint, however, this could demonstrate how intergenerational transmission of human behaviour may preserve dietary traditions in long-distance migration into vastly different environments. Here this hypothesis is explored through high resolution isotopic evidence from Rapa Nui. d13C and d15N compound specific analysis of individual amino acids from human and faunal remains, and a range of reference food items, confirms that seafood was not a significant component of early Rapa Nui diet. Additionally, rat collagen amino acid isotope values provide a baseline to test the hypothesis of human diets based largely on rats and chickens, and to investigate effects of environmental change on Rapa Nui. Consumption of palm nuts by introduced Pacific rats has been proposed as playing a role in deforestation. Multivariate statistical analysis of amino acid data investigates this, and whether palm nuts may have been a component of human diets too. This presentation situates the updated results within the broader evolutionary questions.

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Why terrestrial diets in island environments? Evolutionary considerations of isotopic results from Rapa Nui. Brian Popp, Jarman Jarman, Hilary Close, Thomas Larsen, Terry Hunt. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395371)


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min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America