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Stable Isotope Evidence for Maize Horticulture and Paleodiet in Southern Ontario, Canada

  • M. Anne Katzenberg (a1), Henry P. Schwarcz (a2), Martin Knyf (a2) and F. Jerome Melbye (a3)

Abstract

This paper reports new data on stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes obtained from human skeletal remains found at six prehistoric sites dating between A.D. 400 and 1500 in southern Ontario. Analyses examine more closely the timing and intensity of maize adoption and the importance of animal protein in the diet, adding to earlier work in the region by the same authors (Schwarcz et al. 1985). As a result of changes in preferred methods of extracting bone collagen, a comparison of extraction methods is presented. Results indicate a gradual increase in the importance of maize in the diet over a period of approximately 600 years, from A.D. 650 to 1250, and little change in nitrogen isotope values during the same period. The results are considered within the larger temporal and geographical framework of eastern North America, drawing on stable isotope results from the published literature. Both paleobotanical and isotope data indicate marked differences in the timing and intensity of maize utilization in different regions of northeastern North America. Nitrogen isotope values decrease after around A.D. 1350, suggesting a decrease in animal protein in the diet. Stable isotope data provide one source of evidence for changes in human subsistence patterns and their interpretation relies on complementary data from sources such as the analysis of faunal and botanical remains, settlement patterns, and material culture.

Resumen

Resultados de los análisis de carbón e isótopos de nitrógeno obtenidos de restos humaños procedentes de seis sitios arqueológicos del sur de Ontario que datan entre 400 y 1500 D.C. se presentan en este trabajo. Dichos análisis evaluan cuidadosamente el tiempo e intensidad de la adopción del maίz y la importancia de la proteina animal en la subsistencia, añadiendo de este modo nueva información a previos estudios realizados por los autores (Schwarcz et al. 1985). Como resultado de los cambios en los métodos preferidos para extraer colágeno de hueso, una comparación de los métodos de extracción se presenta. Nuestros resultados sugieren un incremento gradual de la importancia del maίz en la dieta entre un perίodo aproximadamente de 600 años, de 650 a 1250 D.C. Los valores de isótopos de nitrógeno muestran un insignificante cambio durante el tiempo en consideración. Los resultados son discutidos dentro del marco geográfico y temporal más amplio del este de Norte America, teniendo en consideración estudios similares ya publicados. Datos tanto paleobotánicos como de isótopos indican a su vez marcadas diferencias en el perίodo e intensidad de la utilization del maiz en las diferentes regiones del noreste norteamericano. Los valores de isótopo de nitrógeno disminuyen después de 1350 D.C, lo que sugiere un decrecimiento de la proteina animal en la dieta. Datos de isótopo ofrecen una Fuente de evidencia para determinar cambios en los patrones de subsistencia y su interpretación depende de información complementaria de otras fuentes tales como los análisis de los restos de plantas y animates, patrones de asentamiento y cultural material.

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References

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