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Paleodiet in the Atacama Desert (Arica, Chile) and Andean Highlands (Ayacucho Basin, Peru) Using Stable Isotope Analyses of Dental Calculus

Author(s): Simon Poulson ; Susan C. Kuzminsky ; G. Richard Scott ; Tiffiny A. Tung

Year: 2017

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Summary

Long-considered a nuisance, dental calculus has recently enjoyed attention as a potentially useful alternative biomaterial for a variety of anthropological applications, including stable isotope analysis as a technique to study paleodiet. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes of dental calculus have been measured for populations near Arica, Chile in the Atacama Desert (Archaic-Late Intermediate period), and post-Wari (Late Intermediate Period) populations from the Ayacucho Basin, Peru in the Andean Highlands.

The Arica analyses are characterized by very heavy δ15N compositions, from +17.8 to +33.1‰. These values can be explained, in part, by a diet with significant components of isotopically heavy marine resources and plants with δ15N shifted towards heavy values due to the hyper-aridity of the Atacama Desert. The heaviest δ15N values suggest the use of locally-derived isotopically heavy guano as a fertilizer during crop cultivation. The Ayacucho analyses show δ13C values ranging up to -12.3‰, consistent with the use of C4 plants as a major component of diet. δ15N values range up to +18.8‰, and as the site location likely precludes the use of marine resources, the heaviest values suggest the possibility of aridity-driven isotope enrichment and/or the use of camelid dung as a fertilizer during crop cultivation.


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Paleodiet in the Atacama Desert (Arica, Chile) and Andean Highlands (Ayacucho Basin, Peru) Using Stable Isotope Analyses of Dental Calculus. Simon Poulson, Susan C. Kuzminsky, G. Richard Scott, Tiffiny A. Tung. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431021)


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Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15566

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