The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Dietary trajectories and stable isotope analyses indicate marked diversity between neighboring sites of Samtavro and Tchkantiskhedi (Republic of Georgia, 1st – 6th cAD)


1Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University of Melbourne, 2School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne

March 27, 2015 10:45, Grand Ballroom C Add to calendar

Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes extracted from a permanent first molar, femur and rib chart an individual’s lifetime dietary trajectory, and provide evidence for changing subsistence patterns and/or migration. We conducted isotope analyses using bone collagen of 24 individuals from Samtavro and Tchkantiskedi in the Greater Mtskheta region of the Republic of Georgia. These contemporaneous sites dated between 1st – 6th cAD are situated 15km from each other. Samtavro was renowned in Soviet times for providing rich skeletal evidence of the changing cultural landscape during the early Christian and Migration periods, including varying burial patterns and cranial modification. The importance of this material is only just being realized through up-to-date scientific analyses.

We sampled individuals from stone-cist, tiled-cist and sarcophagus burials, with and without modified crania. We included adults of both sexes and juveniles. Eleven individuals were included in the dietary trajectory study. Both parametric and non-parametric tests were used to study significance of differences.

The overall isotope results indicate a predominantly C3-based terrestrial diet, with some evidence of C4 plant consumption. There was no evidence for dietary differences between burial-types, age, sex or cranial modification. Both carbon and nitrogen stable isotope results differed significantly between Samtavro and Tchkantiskhedi and demonstrate greater diversity in dietary practices between these neighboring sites than had been documented previously. Two individuals showed evidence of non-local diet. This study provides a clearer picture of diet and migration during a significant historical period. Future studies will use augmented sample sizes to strengthen these emerging results.

This work was funded by ARC DP120103142 and private donors.