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

Strangers among them: using stable C, N, and S isotope analysis of human bone to interpret four unusual burials at the Yukisma Mound (CA-SCL-38), in Santa Clara County, California


1Anthropology, California State University, Chico, 2Anthropology, San Jose State University, 3Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe

Saturday Afternoon, Council Suite Add to calendar

The Yukisma Mound (CA-SCL-38) in Santa Clara Valley,California, is a mortuary site used during the Middle/Late Transition and Late Periods, between 250 and 1700 years B.P. Of the 243 discrete gravelots identified, only one multiple burial was found, containing the skeletal remains of four young males. One (B141) was placed on his side in the traditional flexed position. The other three (B142, B143, and B144) were extended with limbs splayed. Embedded obsidian points were found in both B142 and B143, and another was closely associated with B144. B144 displayed possible cut marks on the medial aspect of the right distal humerus and right proximal ulna, in a pattern consistent with trophy taking; however, all long bones were present and intact.

To determine whether these individuals were likely part of the local population, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values from their bone collagen and apatite were compared to other individuals from CA-SCL-38. δ13C values of bone collagen and apatite were within the range of the population, but mean δ15N of the four males was comparatively depleted by ~2‰. Bone collagen δ13C and δ15N values were found to co-vary in CA-SCL-38 adults (n=98; r2 = 0.772). However, standardized residual values for these four males were more than three standard deviations below the population regression line. Sulfur isotopes were also used to assess geographical origin of the four individuals. Evidence suggests that these males were likely outsiders, raising additional questions about the circumstances surrounding this burial.

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