Isotopic Analysis of Dietary Variation in Formative Period Chile


Northern Chile's Atacama Desert is one of the driest environments on Earth. In fact, it has been suggested that the region serves as a good model for living conditions on Mars. By employing a number of resource management strategies including complex systems of trade, humans have lived in the inhospitable region for millennia. Here we present the results of stable isotope analysis of seven Formative Period (1500 B.C.-A.D. 500) humans from the Ancachi site near the modern town of Quillagua. Analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes from human bone collagen and hydroxyapatite, as well as floral and faunal remains, allows us to study the variability in protein and carbohydrate components of these individuals' diets. These data, as well as the comparison of burial methods between Ancachi and several coastal cemeteries, allow us to examine patterns of exchange and social mobility on an individual level. By comparing these data to those of hundreds of other individuals in a broader ongoing study, we can examine patterns of dietary variation in the region which indicate systematic regional exchange of food and other goods.

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Isotopic Analysis of Dietary Variation in Formative Period Chile. Erin Smith, William Pestle, Francisco Gallardo, Christina Torres-Rouff. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398288)

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Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;