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


Investigating inter-laboratory variability in stable isotope data

WILLIAM J. PESTLE1, MATTHEW T. WEIRAUCH2 and BROOKE E. CROWLEY3.

1Department of Anthropology, University of Miami, 2Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) and Biomedical Informatics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3Departments of Geology and Anthropology, University of Cincinnati

Saturday 8:00-8:15, Ballroom B Add to calendar

With the growing popularity of isotopic paleodiet and paleoenvironmental reconstructions, the question of whether data obtained in one laboratory are directly comparable to those obtained elsewhere becomes increasingly relevant. Differences in pretreatment and analysis could potentially introduce variability in isotopic results that would render data comparisons from different laboratories invalid. To address these issues and answer the pressing question of the validity of inter-laboratory comparability, we have undertaken a study enlisting the participation of over fifteen anthropology, biology, and geology laboratories that routinely analyze ancient bone collagen and apatite. From its inception, the goals of this study were to: (1) assess the degree of inter-laboratory variability associated with bone collagen and hydroxyapatite pretreatment and analysis, and (2) identify potential causes of this variability (e.g. chemicals used, treatment time). To accomplish these goals, participating laboratories received replicate samples from the same ancient 14C-dated human bone, which they were asked to process and analyze following typical in-house protocols. Participating laboratories provided details on pretreatment and analytical methods, sample preservation assessments, and resulting isotopic data. Here we present the results of this inter-laboratory study. These results establish the comparability of stable isotope data obtained from different laboratories and provide insight into the nature, degree, and potential causality of inter-laboratory isotopic variability.

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