A Life’s Story from a Single Tooth? : a discussion of the value of destructive analyses


Countless studies have demonstrated that isotopic and ancient DNA analyses of human skeletal remains can provide a valuable added layer of information to the study of past populations and their lifeways. Although improvements in sampling methods and technological advances have greatly reduced the amount of bone or enamel required, these analyses still require the destruction of human remains. Many Native American communities are opposed and do not allow sampling of their ancestors’ remains for isotopic or genetic data. The University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) has recently re-visited this topic with its Indian Advisory Council because without these data a majority of the human remains reposed at the OSA are considered culturally unidentifiable. Approval for judicious isotopic and ancient DNA analyses, in order to identify the affiliation of remains with no other contextual information, is being sought. In response, a Native American Advisor donated a tooth for isotopic analysis to demonstrate what can and cannot be learned. This poster presents the results of isotopic analyses of the donated tooth, the donor’s self-reported life history, discusses the benefits and drawbacks of destructive analyses, and most importantly, brings this topic up for discussion among archaeologists and Native American communities.

Cite this Record

A Life’s Story from a Single Tooth? : a discussion of the value of destructive analyses. Lara Noldner, Suzanne Wanatee Buffalo, Johnathan Buffalo. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429979)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16934