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Strontium Isotopes and the Study of Human Mobility in Ancient Mesoamerica

  • T. Douglas Price (a1), James H. Burton (a2), Paul D. Fullagar (a3), Lori E. Wright (a4), Jane E. Buikstra (a5) and Vera Tiesler (a6)...


We analyzed strontium isotopes in more than 500 samples of shell, bone, and dental enamel from modern and archaeological contexts throughout Mesoamerica. The results correspond closely with expectations based upon the local geology and earlier measurements of geological materials. The results show that isotopic variation is significant across Mesoamerica. Thus strontium isotope ratios in dental enamel, which mark the place of childhood residence, can be used not only to document mobility but also in some cases to determine geographic origin. We present five archaeological case studies to illustrate the anthropological significance and range of applications for this technique: the origins of individuals in the “Oaxaca Barrio” at Teotihuacan, a northern origin for the founder of Copan, a local king at Tikal, the regional origin of two of Palenque's rulers, and individuals of African birth in a colonial cemetery in Campeche.


Se evaluaron las proporciones isotópicas de estroncio en más de quinientas muestras fósiles y modernas de concha, hueso y esmalte dental, colectadas en numerosos sitios de toda Mesoamérica. Los resultados reflejan estrechamente las expectativas fundamentadas en la geología local y algunas medidas previas que habían sido obtenidas de diferentes sustratos geológicos. Los presentes datos se emplearán en el diseño de un mapa rector que mostrará pan-regionalmente los rangos de relación isotópica de estroncio. Se puede utilizarse el análisis de las proporciones isotópicas de estroncio en el esmalte dental, el cual retiene las características del lugar de nacimientos, no solo para investigar aspectos generales de movilidad, sino también para determinar el origen geográfico de un individuo. Aquí se presentan cinqo estudios de caso arqueológicos que ilustran la relevancia y gama de aplicaciones de esta técnica: los orígenes de los individuos del “Barrio Oaxaqueño” en Teotihuacan; la procedencia de el fundador del linaje dinástico de Copán, del norte; el origen intra-regional de la “Reina Roja” de Palenque y de Janaab' Pakal; así como la identificación de esclavos oriundos de África en un cementerio colonial de Campeche.



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Strontium Isotopes and the Study of Human Mobility in Ancient Mesoamerica

  • T. Douglas Price (a1), James H. Burton (a2), Paul D. Fullagar (a3), Lori E. Wright (a4), Jane E. Buikstra (a5) and Vera Tiesler (a6)...


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