Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Thursday All day, Plaza Level
According to a 2004 survey of medical examiner/coroner offices across the United Stated there were almost 13,500 sets of unidentified human remains across the nation. An additional 4,400 cases are reported annually with 1,000 of these remaining unidentified after a year, creating a compounding problem. Stable isotope analyses can serve as a first line of inquiry to narrow down the possible region of origin of skeletal remains. The analysis of the variation between the isotope ratios of oxygen (18O/16O) is of particular value for this purpose as local water resources determine body δ18O values that should remain predictable for local fauna and humans. This study fills a void in the isotopic record of interior Alaska by providing an updated predictive δ18O model of Alaskan drinking water (δ18Owater) and a predictive δ18O model for Alaskan moose (δ18Omoose). Thirty-two moose mandibles were acquired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and one incisor was extracted from each mandible. δ18O values were obtained from the enamel. A GIS predictive model of Alaska including water and plant δ18O values as well as ecologic, climate, and geographic information was developed. A statewide δ18Owater predictive surface was then created. This surface was used in conjunction with sampled δ18Omoose values to create a statewide δ18Omoose predictive surface. These predictive models may in turn be useful for identifying geographic origin of human remains in forensic cases because both δ18Omoose and δ18Ohuman values should approximate the local δ18Owater values with similar fractionation effects.