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In precolumbian insular Caribbean archaeological sites, domestic dog (Canis familiaris) remains have been recovered from varied contexts, such as formal burials, in refuse deposits, and as modified artifacts, indicating their complex and multifaceted role within indigenous societies. In this study, isotopic and morphometric analyses provide biochemical and morphological correlations to assess this differential treatment. We examined collagen values (n = 21) of carbon (δ13Cco) and nitrogen (δ15N), and enamel values (n = 81) of carbon (δ13Cen), oxygen (δ18Oen), and strontium (87Sr/86Sr) of dog remains from 16 precolumbian sites. Five comparative parameters were used to assess dietary variations between different groups: buried versus nonburied, local versus nonlocal, Greater versus Lesser Antilles, chronology, and modified versus unmodified remains. The only statistically significant difference in diets was between local and nonlocal dogs. Sufficient data were available to conduct isotopic mixing models using the FRUITS statistical program on four individuals for which depositional and morphological data were available. Results of dietary modeling indicate an unexpectedly heavy reliance on plant foods consistent with intentional feeding. This approach highlights the utility of combining isotope analysis, dietary models, morphometrics, and depositional context to provide comprehensive biographic overviews of individual animals.
The European conquest and colonization of the Caribbean precipitated massive changes in indigenous cultures and societies of the region. One of the earliest changes was the introduction of new plant and animal foods and culinary traditions. This study presents the first archaeological reconstruction of indigenous diets and foodways in the Caribbean spanning the historical divide of 1492. We use multiple isotope datasets to reconstruct these diets and investigate the potential relationships between dietary and mobility patterns at multiple scales. Dietary patterns are assessed by isotope analyses of different skeletal elements from the archaeological skeletal population of El Chorro de Maíta, Cuba. This approach integrates carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses of bone and dentine collagen with carbon and oxygen isotope analyses of bone and enamel apatite. The isotope results document extreme intrapopulation dietary heterogeneity but few systematic differences in diet between demographic/social groups. Comparisons with published isotope data from other precolonial and colonial period populations in the Caribbean indicate distinct dietary and subsistence practices at El Chorro de Maíta. The majority of the local population consumed more animal protein resources than other indigenous populations in the Caribbean, and their overall dietary patterns are more similar to colonial period enslaved populations than to indigenous ones.
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