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Keywords:

  • Strontium analysis;
  • Paleodiet;
  • Natufian;
  • Aurignacian

Abstract

Faunal and human bones from the Natufian and Aurignacian levels of Hayonim Cave, Israel, were analyzed for calcium, strontium, and phosphate, in order to investigate the efficacy of strontium measurements for determining the proportion of meat in human diets. This site in the western Galilee was appropriate for a test of the technique since a)herbivore and carnivore fauna were present in numbers from two different time periods, b) well-characterized human skeletons were also present in at least one of these levels, and c)the diets of the individuals examined were basically well understood. On the basis of Sr/Ca values, a large difference was observed between Natufian herbivore bones and carnivore bones in the manner predicted by the diets of these species. Sr/Ca values for the adult humans from the same level fell midway between the herbivore and carnivore ranges. However, a different pattern was observed for Aurignacian fauna; no difference could be found between Sr/Ca ratios of herbivore and carnivore bones. The findings suggest that, in certain circumstances, the technique may provide important new paleodietary information. However, at any given site or level, both herbivore and carnivore fauna should be analyzed before conclusions about human diets are drawn from it.