Prehistoric Diet on Rapa Nui via Stable Isotope Analyses of Bone Collagen and Carbonate

Author(s): Amy Commendador; Bruce Finney; John Dudgeon

Year: 2015


Previous analyses of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in dentin collagen from prehistoric individuals on Rapa Nui suggested a predominately terrestrial diet in the early phase of occupation, followed by a slight expansion into marine-based subsistence post-AD 1650. This was unexpected as the documented pattern across Polynesia is a marine-dominated strategy in the early phases of occupation with terrestrial resources incorporated later, as agricultural systems supplant foraging behaviors. To examine this further, we conducted carbonate analyses (for C and O stable isotopes) on 28 of the same individual tooth samples used in the collagen study. These combined analyses provide a more accurate understanding of prehistoric diet, as collagen represents primarily the protein portion of the diet while carbonates have been shown to record whole diet (including non- or low-protein sources). Our results are similar to those of the collagen analysis, providing additional support for a primarily terrestrial-based subsistence system throughout the prehistory of the island.

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Cite this Record

Prehistoric Diet on Rapa Nui via Stable Isotope Analyses of Bone Collagen and Carbonate. Amy Commendador, John Dudgeon, Bruce Finney. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396322)


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Spatial Coverage

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