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

Stable Isotopic Analysis of Human Diet in the Cape Region of Baja California Sur


Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

Saturday 9:00-9:15, Ballroom B Add to calendar

Explorer accounts from 1533 on document populations in the Cape Region, Baja California Sur, Mexico as maritime foragers with varying descriptions of leadership, rank and occupational specialization within language groups. The antecedent and concurrent Las Palmas Culture (A.D. 1200 to 1700) was originally defined by William Massey based on excavation of small exclusive-use burial caves. Each cave held one or two primary interments and several secondary bundle burials representing both sexes and all ages. Skeletal elements in bundle burials were often painted with ochre before being wrapped in sewn palm fiber mats or occasionally animal hides. Both burial types have produced a diversity of largely perishable grave offerings.

Preliminary analysis of stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of human bone collagen previously demonstrated marine protein contributed substantially to local diets and that while variability was evident, differential mortuary treatment offered little explanatory value. The present study builds on this earlier research with analysis of carbon isotope ratios of bone apatite carbonate and collagen from 81 individuals interred in nine cave burial and three open-air sand dune sites dating between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1650. Gender differences in whole diet and dietary protein intake outweigh differences observed by burial context, mortuary treatment or grave offerings. However variability between isotopic signatures and patterning between burial caves supports their use as markers of resource territories. Additional variability is accounted for by macronutrient shifts during weaning observed more clearly in bone apatite carbonate to collagen spacings than nitrogen isotope values of bone collagen alone.

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