Journal article

Multi-tissue stable carbon and nitrogen isotope models for dietary reconstruction: Evaluation using a southern African farming population

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Zhu M, Sealy J.

Publisher: Wiley: 12 months

Publication year: 2019

Journal: American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Journal name: American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Volume number: 168

Issue number: 1

Start page: 145

End page: 153

Total number of pages: 9

ISSN: 0002-9483

eISSN: 1096-8644



Objectives: Multi-tissue stable isotope models to reconstruct past diets (Froehle, Kellner, & Schoeninger, 012; Kellner & Schoeninger, 2007) have lacked data from a heavily C4-dependent population. Using new data from southern African agriculturalists, published models are evaluated for accuracy in dietary reconstruction and applicability to isotopically diverse diets. Additionally, isotopic variation between tooth enamel and bone apatite, which are often treated as isotopically equivalent, is investigated.
Materials and Methods: δ13Cbone apatite, δ13Ctooth enamel, δ13Ccollagen, and δ15Ncollagen values for
51 adult southern African agriculturalists are presented. Bivariate (linear) and multivariate (cluster analysis, discriminant function analysis) models are recreated including these data, and the resulting dietary reconstructions evaluated against what we know of archaeological diets.
Results: Δ13Ccollagen-enamel (5.67 1.66‰) is significantly larger than Δ13Ccollagen-bone apatite (4.77 1.42‰) and are significantly different from each other (Mann Whitney U-Test, p = 0.0). δ13Cbone apatite and δ13Ctooth enamel were uncorrelated (R2 = 0.24). The agriculturalists consumed highly variable and heterogeneous diets, (mean δ13Cbone apatite = −6.25 2.49‰, δ13Ctooth enamel = −2.88 2.48‰, δ13Ccollagen = −8.65 2.16‰, δ15Ncollagen = 10.05 1.9‰). Multi- and bi-variate models under-estimate the probable contribution of C3 energy sources, and recreation of cluster analysis results in a significant reduction in the parsimony of the dietary clusters derived in Froehle et al., 2012.
Conclusion: Bone apatite and tooth enamel are distinct biominerals, and their δ13C values should not be treated as equivalent. Multiple tissue isotopes provide valuable insight into diet that cannot be achieved with single tissues, but current models are limited by the lack of isotopic diversity in the data on which they are based.


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Last updated on 2019-26-11 at 15:27