Quantitative Paleodietary Reconstruction with Complex Foodwebs: An Isotopic Case Study from the Caribbean

Author(s): Jason Laffoon; William Pestle

Year: 2018


Stable isotope analysis is one of the most effective tools for paleodietary reconstruction and has been widely applied to a vast array of archaeological contexts including the Caribbean region. This region, however, possesses a particularly complex isotopic ecology, including both a large number of isotopically variable food sources and a high degree of isotopic overlap between different food groups. As such, to date, most regional paleodietary studies have been limited to descriptive and qualitative conclusions concerning the relative contributions of different food sources. In this study we apply an iterative Bayesian multi-source mixing model (FRUITS) to human stable isotope data from the prehistoric population of Tutu, St. Thomas, USVI, to generate quantitative and probabilistic individual paleodietary reconstructions. The isotope dataset includes both bone collagen (δ13Cco and δ15Nco) and apatite (δ13Cap) data. The results of two different dietary models using four and five distinct food groupings, respectively, are compared and assessed relative to other relevant archaeological evidence concerning past diet at the site. We highlight the potentials and limitations of multi-source mixing models for regional paleodietary studies, and their relevance to ongoing debates within Caribbean archaeology concerning the relative importance of different food sources such as manioc, maize, and seafood.

Cite this Record

Quantitative Paleodietary Reconstruction with Complex Foodwebs: An Isotopic Case Study from the Caribbean. Jason Laffoon, William Pestle. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 445423)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21202