Isotopic Evidence for an Emerging Colonial Urban Economy: Charleston, South Carolina


This is an abstract from the "Zooarchaeology and Technology: Case Studies and Applications" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Stable isotope analysis enables us to test the hypothesis that specialized animal economies were fundamental to the development of emerging urban centers, including colonial American cities. The distribution of meat and other animal products is a basic urban process and a barometer for the economic development of such early urban centers. Skeletal representation from colonial Charleston, South Carolina suggests urban residents obtained animal products through both direct (home-slaughter) and indirect (market) acquisition. Isotopic variation is high in cattle bones and teeth. Stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) in cattle bones indicate that animals and animal products were from both local and distant sources within the evolving colonial distribution system. Lower-status/dual-function sites had a different "catchment" for beef than either markets or upper-status residences. A suite of isotopic ratios (δ13C, δ15N, δ18O, δ34S, 87Sr/86Sr, and Pb-series) measured in cattle teeth indicates that cattle were from both inland and coastal sources. Some cattle were free-ranged and others penned. Isotopic variation could be due to landscape modification (burning or manuring fields) and/or micro-environmental variations such as would be evidence for procuring cattle from distinct, but unspecified, rural sources. Some of these differences may correlate with time.

Cite this Record

Isotopic Evidence for an Emerging Colonial Urban Economy: Charleston, South Carolina. Elizabeth Reitz, Sarah Platt, Carla Hadden, Laurie Reitsema, Martha Zierden. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450726)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.735; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -73.389; max lat: 39.572 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22804