• stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes;
  • palaeodiet;
  • weaning;
  • Gaya;
  • Three Kingdoms;
  • Korea


Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses were conducted to investigate dietary variation in human skeletons (n = 109) from the Gaya cemetery at Yeanri located near Gimhae City, South Korea. The cemetery contained three distinct grave types dating to 4th–7th century AD. The main purposes of this research were to reconstruct palaeodiet in the Gaya population and to explore correlations between stable isotope compositions and burial types, inferred age, and sex of these individuals. The isotopic data indicate that the people at Yeanri consumed a predominantly C3-based terrestrial diet supplemented with freshwater and/or marine resources. The comparison of isotopic results reveals significant differences in δ13C values among three adult burial types (wood-cist coffin: −18.5 ± 0.5‰, stone-cist coffin: −18.1 ± 0.6‰, mausoleum: −17.8 ± 0.9‰). Males in wood-cist and stone-cist coffins have relatively more elevated mean δ13C and δ15N values than females. The isotopic ratios from the two adult age groups (21–40 years and 40–60 years) indicate that there was no significant dietary change in individuals with age. The isotope data from the infants and children suggest the weaning was a gradual process that was completed between 3 and 4 years of age in the Gaya population. This evidence indicates that the dietary variations within the cemetery reflect social status, sex, and childhood consumption patterns. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.