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

Whet your apatite: A dietary reconstruction using stable carbon isotopes from human tooth enamel at Tell Dothan


1Department of Anthropology, Fort Lewis College, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Vermont, 3Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Social Work, University of South Alabama, 4Department of Sociology, Quinnipiac University, 5Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

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Stable isotope analysis represents an effective means of reconstructing diet in ancient populations. In this study, stable carbon isotope values were used to assess diet among individuals from Tell Dothan’s Western Cemetery, located in the modern-day West Bank. Carbonate was isolated from human maxillary left first molars (n=34) and faunal (n=6) teeth, and analyzed using an isometric ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS). We hypothesized that there would be significantly different 13C enrichment between teeth from the Late Bronze (1400-1300 BC; Level 1; n=17) and Early Iron (1200-1100 BC; Level 4; n=17) Ages, possibly reflecting significant cultural changes – including increased trade, migration, and political unrest – that occurred in the region during this time. We also hypothesized that samples would exhibit depleted δ13Cap values due to a diet high in C3 grains, widely thought to be the standard diet of the period.

Results showed homogeneity and continuity between the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages at Tell Dothan, with no statistically significant difference in δ13Cap values (Mann-Whitney U, p=0.9) or variance (Levene’s test, p=0.6) between Level 1 (-11.9 ± 0.4‰) and Level 4 (-11.9 ± 0.6‰). These data suggest that the inhabitants of Tell Dothan consumed mostly C3 grains, with few C4 or marine resources, and maintained a similar diet over time despite considerable cultural changes. Faunal samples had a less negative mean δ13Cap ratio (-9.2 ± 1.9‰), indicating that domesticated animals at the site consumed more C4 resources than their human counterparts.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation-Research Experiences for Undergraduates (SES #1005158) Bioarchaeology Program at the University of Notre Dame.

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