The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Sulfur isotopes in modern deer bones of Virginia – establishing a δ34S isoscape for archaeological studies of East Coast North Americans


1Museum Conservation Institute, Smithsonian Institution, 2School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

April 16, 2020 , Diamond 6 Add to calendar

This project focuses on modern deer to map the bioavailable sulfur isotope distribution in Virginia as a proxy baseline for examining geographic origins. Stable oxygen isotopes are a well-established method to determine latitudinal region of origin in archaeological remains from North America. However, a longitudinal marker of movement between coastal and inland regions is currently lacking. Bone collagen sulfur isotopes have potential as a new longitudinal marker to examine the migration of early settlers from coastal colonies towards inland environments. This project focuses on a localized sulfur isoscape from modern deer in Virginia as the first such map of bone sulfur isotopes in North America. Results from over 200 deer across 25 counties (over 300 km distance) show more than 5 permil difference between the coast and mountains, making this the first viable method to track longitudinal origins in East Coast North America. The applicability to other East Coast regions will be considered, as well as how this method may be used to examine archaeological geographic origins versus marine dietary input.

Slides/Poster (pdf)