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Keywords:

  • Strontium;
  • Diet-assessment;
  • Teeth;
  • Hominids

Abstract

It has been suggested that bone and dental strontium contents of extinct terrestrial vertebrates vary in direct proportion to the strontium levels present in the animals' diets. It has been hypothesized that these trace quantities decrease as one moves upward along the food chain—herbivores having more strontium than primary carnivores, primary carnivores more than secondary carnivores, and so on.

The present study was desgined to determine the feasibility of dental strontium analysis for diet-assessment of human fossil populations. Human vegetarian and nonvegetarian teeth were analyzed for strontium. It was hoped that by comparing the strontium levels of these two groups, one might determine conclusively whether the nature of diet plays an important role in the determination of dental strontium levels within a species.

Atomic absorption spectrophotometry was used to analyze seven vegetarian and seven nonvegetarian teeth. Strontium levels varied considerably within both groups of teeth and no significant difference in strontium levels existed between the vegetarian and nonvegetarian teeth. These results suggest that dental strontium analysis may not be a useful indicator of the dietary habits of human fossil populations.