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Keywords:

  • paleodiet;
  • diet reconstruction;
  • bone apatite;
  • collagen;
  • Later Stone Age;
  • coastal archeology

Abstract

Stable isotope analysis of skeletal tissues is widely used in archeology and paleoanthropology to reconstruct diet. In material that is poorly preserved or very old, the tissue of choice is frequently tooth enamel, since this is less susceptible to diagenesis. The relationships between carbon isotope ratios in tooth enamel (δ13Cenamel), bone collagen (δ13Ccollagen), and bone apatite (δ13Cbone apatite) are, however, not well understood. To elucidate these, we have measured all three indicators in archeological humans from the western and southern Cape coastal regions of South Africa. The correlation between δ13Cenamel and δ13Ccollagen is good (R2 = 0.71 if two outliers are excluded, n = 79). The correlation between δ13Cenamel and δ13Cbone apatite is weaker (R2= 0.37, n = 33) possibly due to bone diagenesis. No systematic offset between δ13Cbone apatite and δ13Cenamel was observed in this sample of archeological humans. Intertooth comparisons of δ13Cenamel in three individuals showed little variation, despite the different ages of crown formation. Carbon isotope ratios in both enamel and bone collagen are good proxies for δ13Cdiet. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.