The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Refining dietary estimates at Machu Picchu using combined dental macro/microwear and isotopic analyses


Department of Anthropology, Georgia State University

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Reconstructing diet in Andean populations is complicated not only by ecological complexity, but by large-scale population movements and trade networks during periods of imperial rule; this is most evident during the Inca-dominated Late Horizon period (AD 1438-1532). It is therefore more difficult to precisely reconstruct dietary patterns among populations within these contexts. Previous multi-isotopic analysis of the skeletal population from the Inca site of Machu Picchu in the southern central Peruvian Andes indicates marked variation in dietary composition both early and late in life. However, these data are limited in their specificity due to overlap in isotopic signals from different resource types; for example, maize, amaranth and marine proteins yield similar δ13C values. This study compares existing carbon and nitrogen isotopic data to enamel macro- and microwear data to more accurately profile diet composition in a subset (n=50) of the Machu Picchu skeletal population. Preliminary results suggest marked variation in macrowear patterns, and greater variation in dental microwear pit size and number than in scratches. While some individuals show no clear correlation between isotopes and overall dental wear patterns, there appears to be an inverse correlation in total number of pits and depleted δ18O and δ13C values in others. Overall, these results suggest that some of the dietary variation at Machu Picchu may be tied to residential origin, represented by δ18O values. They also reveal microwear-based subsets within similar δ13C value ranges, which may prove useful in more accurately estimating consumed food resources in this and other Andean populations.

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