Get access

Stable Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Spacing Between Bone and Tooth Collagen and Hydroxyapatite in Human Archaeological Remains



Spacing between stable isotope values in bones and teeth is a valuable tool for examining dietary influences and diagenesis. This study examines carbon and oxygen isotope values from collagen and hydroxyapatite (structural carbonate and phosphate) in archaeological human bones and teeth to derive species-specific correlation equations and isotope spacing values. The δ13Ccollagen and δ13Cstructural carbonate in bone and dentin collagen show a strong correlation (R = 0.87, 0.90, respectively) with an average Δ13Ccarb-coll spacing of 5.4‰. The consistency of this isotope spacing with other large mammals and in humans with both low and high protein intake (as indicated by enriched δ15N values) suggests a similar allocation of protein-derived carbon and whole diet-derived carbon to collagen and structural carbonates, respectively, as other terrestrial mammals regardless of absolute meat intake. The δ18Ostructural carbonate and δ18Ophosphate show the strongest correlation in enamel (R = 0.65), weaker correlations in dentin (R = 0.59) and bone (R = 0.35), with an average Δ18Ocarb-phos of 7.8‰. This isotope spacing is slightly lower than previously reported for large mammals and limited available data for humans. The results potentially indicate species-specific fractionations and differing access to body water and blood-dissolved inorganic carbonates in the presence of collagen formation. The use of correlation between δ18Ostructural carbonate and δ18Ophosphate to determine diagenetic state is not recommended. The strength of this correlation observed in bones and teeth is variable and alternate indicators of diagenetic state (i.e. C:N ratios of collagen) provide more robust and independent evidence of isotope preservation despite presence/absence of a strong isotope correlation. Published 2012. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.