The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Investigating paleoclimate in the Levant: carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of gazelles and rodents

ALEX M. COWPER1, JENNIFER LEICHLITER1, KELSEY HACK2, MIRIAM BELMAKER2 and MATTHEW J. SPONHEIMER1.

1Anthropology, University of Colorado-Boulder, 2Anthropology, University of Tulsa

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The Younger Dryas (YD) stadial is often linked to the adoption of agriculture in the Levant. However, the local impacts of the YD are unclear. Because plant and mammal δ13C values reflect water availability, we are able to directly address these issues. Unlike plant remains, mammal remains are prevalent within the archaeological record. Thus, gazelles and rodents can serve as climate proxies. Herbivore tissues (δ15N) reflect the δ15N values of their plant diets, and plants in turn reflect climate variables. Because of the general relationships between climate and mammalian tissues, we further develop these proxies through an actualistic study of modern gazelles and rodents, under different climatic conditions in the Levant. Here we use carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopic composition of hair keratin to determine how environmental changes (aridity and temperature) are expressed in the δ13C and δ15N values of gazelles (Gazella gazella, Gazella dorcas; n=125) and rodents (Microtus guentheri; n=36). The incorporation of multiple species of mammals when investigating relationships between precipitation and climate is useful because it more thoroughly completes the archaeological record in the Levant. Ultimately, these modern data may be used to predict the climatic impact of the Younger Dryas (YD).

Wenner Gren Foundation; The Irene Levy Sala Care foundation for MB; The land vertebrate collection of the Tel Aviv University Zoological Museum (TAUM); and Curator Dr. Shai Meiri.

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