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The Late Woodland Diet on Nantucket Island and the Problem of Maize in Coastal New England

  • Elizabeth A. Little (a1) and Margaret J. Schoeninger (a2)


Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of (1) bone collagen from six burials of the Late Woodland Period at Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, and (2) a wide range of potential dietary materials provide data for evaluating coastal diets. Archaeological and historical data give evidence for the availability and use of dietary items. The bases of the food chains and trophic levels define the possible food groups: terrestrial C3 and C4 plants and their consumers, marine C3 and C4-like plants and their consumers, and marine carnivores. From these data, computer analysis of multiple linear mixing equations relating isotope ratios of human bone collagen to those of dietary food groups shows allowable ranges of these food groups in the diet. The results argue for a diet of 40–65 percent oceanic animals, with the rest consisting of substantial amounts of animals from salt marsh and eelgrass meadows or of maize, and minor amounts of C3 plants and their consumers.


Las proporciones de isotopos de carbono y nitrógeno tornados de (1) colágeno de hueso, sacados de seis entierros del periódo Woodland Tardio en la Isla Nantucket, Massachusetts; y (2) una gran variedad de materiales alimenticios posibles, proveen datos para valorar las dietas costeñas. Los datos historicos y arqueologicos establecen evidencia sobre la utilizatión y disponibilidad de los consumibles. Las bases de la sucesión de comestibles y los niveles tróficos determinan los grupos alimenticios posibles: plantas terrestres C3 y C4 y sus consumidores; plantas marinas parecidas a las plantas C3 y C4 y sus consumidores, y carnίvoros marinos. Un análisis por computadora de ecuaciones mezcladores multi-lineares que relaciona razones isotópicos de colágeno de hueso humano a las de los grupos alimenticios, demuestra limites permisibles de estos grupos alimenticios en el régimen. Los resultados indican una dieta de 40-65 por ciento de animales oceánicos y lo demás es compuesto de cantidades sustanciosas de animales del saladar y de las praderas de Zostera marina, o de maίz, y cantidades pequeñas de plantas C3 y sus consumidores.



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