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


Water isotopes of Ontario: investigating the applications of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes as geographical indicators

MADELEINE L. MANT1, ASHLEY N. NAGEL1, HENDRIK POINAR1, TRACY PROWSE1 and MARTIN KNYF2.

1Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, 2Research Group for Stable Isotopologues, McMaster University

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The oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope compositions of organic matter are increasingly being explored as geographical indicators following the principle ‘you are what you eat and drink.’ The relationship of human hair isotopes to geography has promising forensic applications for the determination of geographic origin and recent residence of unidentified human remains. This research examines variability in oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope values found in 17 human hair and 17 water samples encompassing eight geographical sites in the greater Hamilton and southern Ontario region. The results were then compared to established isotopic values for southern Ontario provided by the Canadian Network for Isotopes in Precipitation using the Online Isotopes in Precipitation Calculator, hosted by Purdue University (http://wateriso.eas.purdue.edu/waterisotopes/pages/data_access/oipc.html [1]). The results suggest that the oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in the individuals’ hair correlate with the isotopic values of the water in their place residence. This research adds to the growing body of research on the potential of using hair to determine an individual’s place of residence shortly before death.

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