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The effects of the 4.2 kya climatic event on northern Mesopotamia have been the subject of significant scholarly debate, with the notion of a megadrought that forced local populations to migrate attracting particular attention. Here, the authors analyse stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes in human tooth and bone samples to assess trends in subsistence practice at three sites in Syria before, during and after the presumed megadrought event. Despite the proximity of the sites, isotopic differences between them are more significant than diachronic change. Combined with other archaeological evidence, these results indicate a continuity in subsistence patterns, with no indication of disruption associated with the 4.2 kya event.
In this paper we discuss recent developments in documenting the spread of millet across the Eurasian steppes. We emphasize that, despite a recent proposal that millet consumption in southern Siberia can be attributed to the Early Bronze Age (i.e., the late third to early second millennium BC), at present there are no direct data for southern Siberia indicating the consumption of millet prior to the Late Bronze Age, from the 14th century BC. We also present in full the combined stable isotope and 14C datasets from the Minusinsk Basin to support this conclusion.
For two decades, stable isotope studies have documented palaeodietary transitions in the Sabana de Bogotá region of north-west South America. Using traditional and Bayesian stable isotope mixing models, this article investigates the contribution of different resources to Holocene human diets. Temporal patterns include dietary emphases on plants during the Early and Middle Holocene, on maize horticulture through the initial Late Holocene and on maize/tuber agriculture during the final Late Holocene; animal protein apparently contributed little across all periods. These results suggest that the management and selection of diverse plants occurred early, and the later emphasis on maize raises universal questions about the role of agriculture in cultural change and social differentiation.
In hot environments, collagen, which is normally targeted when radiocarbon (14C) dating bone, rapidly degrades. With little other skeletal material suitable for 14C dating, it can be impossible to obtain dates directly on skeletal materials. A small amount of carbonate occurs in hydroxyapatite, the mineral phase of bone and tooth enamel, and has been used as an alternative to collagen. Unfortunately, the mineral phase is often heavily contaminated with exogenous carbonate causing 14C dates to underestimate the true age of a sample. Although tooth enamel, with its larger, more stable crystals and lower porosity, is likely to be more robust to diagenesis than bone, little work has been undertaken to investigate how exogenous carbonate can be effectively removed prior to 14C dating. Typically, acid is used to dissolve calcite and etch the surface of the enamel, but it is unclear which acid is most effective. This study repeats and extends earlier work using a wider range of samples and acids and chelating agents (hydrochloric, lactic, acetic and propionic acids, and EDTA). We find that weaker acids remove carbonate contaminants more effectively than stronger acids, and acetic acid is the most effective. However, accurate dates cannot always be obtained.
The central thrust of this book is that geochemical data can be used to identify and interpret geological processes in igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. This chapter categorises geochemical data into major element oxides, trace elements, radiogenic isotopes and stable isotopes. The text discusses the main processes which control the chemical composition of planetary bodies, which operate in igneous and metamorphic rocks and at the Earth’s surface and describes the main analytical methods currently in use. These include the methods of X-ray fluorescence, mass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry for both whole-rock analysis and in situ micro-analysis. Sampling protocols are briefly described and the choice of a suitable analytical method is discussed. Potential sources of error in geochemical analysis are identified and discussed.
This textbook is a complete rewrite, and expansion of Hugh Rollinson's highly successful 1993 book Using Geochemical Data: Evaluation, Presentation, Interpretation. Rollinson and Pease's new book covers the explosion in geochemical thinking over the past three decades, as new instruments and techniques have come online. It provides a comprehensive overview of how modern geochemical data are used in the understanding of geological and petrological processes. It covers major element, trace element, and radiogenic and stable isotope geochemistry. It explains the potential of many geochemical techniques, provides examples of their application, and emphasizes how to interpret the resulting data. Additional topics covered include the critical statistical analysis of geochemical data, current geochemical techniques, effective display of geochemical data, and the application of data in problem solving and identifying petrogenetic processes within a geological context. It will be invaluable for all graduate students, researchers, and professionals using geochemical techniques.
Emerson and colleagues (2020) provide new isotopic evidence on directly dated human bone from the Greater Cahokia region. They conclude that maize was not adopted in the region prior to AD 900. Placing this result within the larger context of maize histories in northeastern North America, they suggest that evidence from the lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River valley for earlier maize is “enigmatic” and “perplexing.” Here, we review that evidence, accumulated over the course of several decades, and question why Emerson and colleagues felt the need to offer opinions on that evidence without providing any new contradictory empirical evidence for the region.
The Promontory caves (Utah) and Franktown Cave (Colorado) contain high-fidelity records of short-term occupations by groups with material culture connections to the Subarctic/Northern Plains. This research uses Promontory and Franktown bison dung, hair, hide, and bone collagen to establish local baseline carbon isotopic variability and identify leather from a distant source. The ankle wrap of one Promontory Cave 1 moccasin had a δ13C value that indicates a substantial C4 component to the animal's diet, unlike the C3 diets inferred from 171 other Promontory and northern Utah bison samples. We draw on a unique combination of multitissue isotopic analysis, carbon isoscapes, ancient DNA (species and sex identification), tissue turnover rates, archaeological contexts, and bison ecology to show that the high δ13C value was not likely a result of local plant consumption, bison mobility, or trade. Instead, the bison hide was likely acquired via long-distance travel to/from an area of abundant C4 grasses far to the south or east. Expansive landscape knowledge gained through long-distance associations would have allowed Promontory caves inhabitants to make well-informed decisions about directions and routes of movement for a territorial shift, which seems to have occurred in the late thirteenth century.
Stable isotope ratios (δ18O and δD) in Antarctic snow and ice are basic proxy indices of climate in ice core studies. The relation between the ratios has important indicative significance for moisture sources. In general, the fractionation characteristics of the two isotopes vary with different meteorological and topographical conditions. This paper presents the spatial and temporal distribution of meteoric water line (MWL) slopes along a traverse from the Zhongshan Station (ZSS) to Dome A in East Antarctica. It is found that the slopes decrease with the increasing distance inland from the coast and the lowest slope occurred at Dome A, where the long-range transported moisture dominates and clear sky snowing have an influence. The slopes in different layers of the snowpack showed a decreasing trend with depth and this is attributed to the fractionation during the interstitial sublimation and re-condensation processes of the water vapor. Frost flower development on the interior plateau surface can greatly alter the depth evolution of the MWL slope. The coastal snow pits also go through the post-depositional smoothing effect, but their influences are not so significant as the inland regions.
We investigated the habitat use and feeding ecology of 10 cetacean species encountered along the south-eastern coast of Brazil (24–26°S) using carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotopes. Hierarchical cluster analysis distinguished two main groups based on their isotopic patterns. One group included migratory baleen whales (Megaptera novaeangliae and Eubalaena australis) with the lowest δ13C and δ15N values, reflecting baseline isotopic values of their Subantarctic feeding grounds and consumption of lower trophic level prey. Resident species and those occasionally occurring in Brazilian coastal waters highly differed from the migratory whales in their isotopic values. In this group, Tursiops truncatus had the highest δ13C and δ15N values, indicating coastal habits and relatively higher trophic position. Similar δ13C values were observed in Sotalia guianensis, Pontoporia blainvillei, Orcinus orca and Steno bredanensis. However, the former two species had lower δ15N values than the latter two, indicating different trophic positions. The relatively lower δ13C values observed in Stenella frontalis suggest greater influence of pelagic prey in their diet. Furthermore, the lower δ13C values observed in Delphinus delphis and Balaenoptera edeni were associated with upwelling events that occur along the region, affecting the isotopic values of their main prey. Juvenile M. novaeangliae had higher δ13C and δ15N than the adults, which may indicate feeding in areas with different isoscapes and consumption of pelagic schooling fish with relatively higher trophic levels than krill. This study provides preliminary information that are useful to understand the habitat use and coexistence of cetacean species occurring in south-eastern Brazil.
Food partitioning among coexisting species is often considered advantageous to minimize niche overlap and avoid inter-specific competition. Congeneric fish species such as the mullets Mugil curema and Mugil liza, which co-occur across marine and estuarine habitats, are good models to evaluate resource use and niche overlap or partitioning. We used stomach contents (SCA) and stable isotope analysis (SIA) to assess potential trophic shifts and changes in niche overlap associated with the mullets transitioning from marine to estuarine habitats. SIA included different fractions of organic matter in suspension and in the sediment to estimate the contribution of micro, nano and pico-organisms to the mullets’ diets. We hypothesized higher resource partitioning in the less resource-diverse system (marine surf-zone) than in the more diverse one (estuary). SCA showed diet differences between M. curema and M. liza according to the habitat. They showed distinct diets in the marine area (P < 0.001), but similar diets in the estuary (P = 0.226). A lower niche breadth was observed for both species in the marine area (M. curema = 0.03, M. liza = 0.06) compared with the estuary (M. curema = 0.14, M. liza = 0.16). Isotopic niches of both species were higher in the estuary (64.7%) compared with the marine area (0.7%). These findings corroborated our hypothesis of higher food partitioning in the marine surf-zone. We also demonstrated using SIA the shift from planktonic to benthic feeding following the recruitment of the mullets from the surf-zone into the estuary.
Lacustrine sedimentary records and the proxies contained within them are valuable archives of past climate. However, the resolution of these records is frequently coarse or contains a high degree of uncertainty, making it difficult to resolve how climatic variability impacts the ecosystems on which humans depend. The goal of this study is to couple recent sediment cores sampled at centimeter-scale resolution with paleo- and historical information about lake levels to document how changes in the paleoenvironment impact the paleoecology of a rift basin lake. We present multiproxy data from three short cores collected from Ferguson's Gulf (FG), a shallow embayment connected to the western shore of Lake Turkana, Kenya. Five distinct biozones were interpreted on the basis of ostracods and geochemistry (δ18O, δ13C, and major elements), spanning the Little Ice Age (LIA) to the modern. Overall, ostracod total abundance and assemblage diversity decreased up-core, with the largest total abundance and genera diversity occurring during the LIA. This fits with regional datasets that indicate the Eastern Branch of the East African Rift System was wetter during the LIA than it is today. This also suggests that human impact in and around Lake Turkana has weakened the resiliency of the ecosystems in FG.
Denitrification occurring in the oxygen minimum zone of the Arabian Sea produces nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas. Therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms controlling denitrification's intensity and evaluate its influence on the global climate at various timescales. We studied multiple geochemical and isotopic proxies in a sediment core from the southeastern Arabian Sea (SEAS) at a high (centennial-scale) resolution. We find that since the last glacial period, both the ventilation and the productivity caused by the South Asian summer monsoon played a major role in controlling the denitrification variability in SEAS. During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and since the Holocene, denitrification increased in SEAS despite reduced monsoon-induced productivity. During the LGM, weakened thermohaline circulation resulted in reduced ventilation of the intermediate waters of SEAS, causing increased denitrification. During the Holocene, the increase in denitrification is caused by an enhanced inflow of oxygen-depleted Red Sea and Persian Gulf waters into the intermediate depth of SEAS owing to a rising sea level that prohibited ventilation by the Antarctic Intermediate Water. We further find millennial-scale synchronicity between denitrification in SEAS, global monsoons, and the North Atlantic climate, implying systematic linkages via greenhouse gases abundance.
Many exotic animal species were introduced to Northern Europe during the Roman period, including fallow deer (Dama dama). To date, however, finds of fallow deer bones at archaeological sites in this region have been sporadic and disarticulated, leaving uncertainty over their origins. This article presents the first known articulated fallow deer skeleton from Roman North-western Europe. Osteological, ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analyses confirm that the species was established in this region by the Roman period, probably originating from translocated, rather than native, Mediterranean populations. Clarifying the origins of fallow deer in North-western Europe is critical for understanding the dynamics of species exchange around the Roman Empire.
Stable isotopes of mammoths and mastodons have the potential to illuminate ecological changes in late Pleistocene landscapes and megafaunal populations as these species approached extinction. The ecological factors at play in this extinction remain unresolved, but isotopes of bone collagen (δ13C, δ15N) and tooth enamel (δ13C, δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr) from midwestern North America are leveraged to examine ecological and behavioral changes that occurred during the last interglacial-glacial cycle. Both species had significant C3 contributions to their diets and experienced increasing levels of niche overlap as they approached extinction. A subset of mastodons after the last glacial maximum exhibit low δ15N values that may represent expansion into a novel ecological niche, perhaps densely occupied by other herbivores. Stable isotopes from serial and microsampled enamel show increasing seasonality and decreasing temperatures as mammoths transitioned from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5e to glacial conditions (MIS 4, MIS 3, MIS 2). Isotopic variability in enamel suggests mobility patterns and life histories have potentially large impacts on the interpretation of their stable isotope ecology. This study further refines the ecology of midwestern mammoths and mastodons demonstrating increasing seasonality and niche overlap as they responded to landscape changes in the final millennia before extinction.
The studied seep carbonates from Tsushima, Japan, are embedded within marine siliciclastics of the lower Miocene Taishu Group and represent the earliest evidence of hydrocarbon seepage in the Sea of Japan. In contrast to Miocene and Pliocene examples from Honshu, which are often found above anticlines, the seeps from Tsushima formed within a pull-apart basin before major anticlines had formed. The three carbonates from Fukuzaki, Kanoura and Tanohama are composed chiefly of calcite, with significant admixture of ankerite only at Kanoura. The stable carbon isotope composition of calcites (δ13C as low as −40.2 ‰ VPDB for Fukuzaki, −41.8 ‰ VPDB for Kanoura, and −52.8 ‰ VPDB for Tanohama) indicate methanogenic origin of the carbonates. Textures of these deposits, including radiaxial and yellow cements, are indicative of formation at a methane seep. The stable oxygen isotope composition of calcites (δ18O values as low as −14.4 ‰ VPDB for Fukuzaki, −14.5 ‰ VPDB for Kanoura and −13.9 ‰ VPDB for Tanohama) indicate that they were influenced by burial fluids. Burial diagenesis is also indicated by the stable isotopic compositions of ankerite (δ13C ranging from −19.1 ‰ to −7.1 ‰ VPDB, δ18O from −11.1 ‰ to −9.7 ‰ VPDB). Molecular fossils from Tanohama comprise n-alkanes with short-chain predominance, interpreted to have formed due to thermal cracking of organic matter. The carbonates yield a chemosynthesis-based community comprising vesicomyids Pleurophopsis chitanii, P. cf. hamuroi, the bathymodiolin ‘Bathymodiolus’ akanudaensis, the lucinid Lucinoma sp. and the provannid Provanna? sp., which have never been hitherto identified. ‘Bathymodiolus’ akanudaensis, Lucinoma sp. and Provanna? sp. are the oldest records of these taxa in the Sea of Japan.
Limited numbers of high-resolution records predate the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) making it difficult to quantify the impacts of environmental changes prior to peak glaciation. We examined sediments from Last Canyon Cave in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming to construct a >45 ka environmental record from pollen and stable isotope analysis. Artemisia pollen was hyper-abundant at the beginning of the record. Carbon isotope values of bulk organic matter (>40 ka) showed little variation (-25.3 ± 0.4‰) and were consistent with a arid C3 environment, similar to today. After 40 cal ka BP, Artemisia pollen decreased as herbaceous taxa increased toward the LGM. A significant decrease in δ13C values from 40–30 cal ka BP (~1.0‰) established a new baseline (-26.6 ± 0.2‰), suggesting cooler, seasonally wetter conditions prior to the LGM. These conditions persisted until variation in δ13C values increased significantly with post-glacial warming, marked by two spikes in values at 14.4 (-25.2‰) and 13.5 cal ka BP (-25.4‰) before δ13C values dropped to their lowest values (-26.9 ± 0.2‰) at the onset of the Younger Dryas (12.8 ka). These results provide insights into late Pleistocene conditions and ecological change in arid intermontane basins of the Rocky Mountains.
The SC-3 speleothem from Szczelina Chochołowska Cave, located in the Tatra Mountains, was studied in detail. U-series dating and age–depth modeling allowed us to constrain the period of speleothem growth to between approximately 330 and 200 ka, that is, during Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 9–7. The complementary use of stable isotope analyses, petrographic studies, and trace element analyses allowed the identification of warm and wet climatic conditions that were favorable for speleothem growth during MIS 9e and MIS 9c. Unfavorable climatic periods included the cold glacial conditions of MIS 8 and the MIS 9/MIS 8 transition. The breaks in the growth of the SC-3 stalagmite were most likely connected with a reduction in precipitation in MIS 9a and extreme hydrologic events during MIS 8. Comparisons with other European records suggest that the climatic variability recorded in the speleothem from the Tatra Mountains is not only a record of local environmental conditions but can also be linked to European climatic patterns during both interglacial and glacial intervals. This makes our study the northernmost paleoclimatic record for the whole Carpathian range and one of the very few records from those periods worldwide.
Recent archaeological excavations on Rakahanga Atoll, Northern Cook Islands, produced one of the earliest examples of dog (Canis familiaris) remains found on East Polynesian atolls. Direct dating of these and other Pacific Island fauna by AMS is complicated by a number of factors. (1) The animals’ diets may consist of marine and terrestrial protein. (2) Marine 14C is itself a mix of carbon pools with localized offsets that vary over time and space. (3) The region is potentially impacted by inter-hemispheric mixing of atmospheric 14C. Stable isotope analysis of gelatin extracted from dog teeth was used to estimate marine/terrestrial dietary components and paired terrestrial and marine samples were used to constrain local atmospheric and marine carbon offsets. The dates were modeled as a phase in a Bayesian chronological framework using mixed calibration curves. The resulting models confirm the presence of dogs on Rakahanga shortly after the initial colonization of the region and suggest that dogs were among the species that accompanied voyagers as they discovered and settled new islands. These methods can be applied to accurately date any marine-influenced terrestrial vertebrate remains in Remote Oceania.
We combine the results of a radiocarbon (14C) dating program with archaeogenetic, osteological and sparse stratigraphic data, to construct a Bayesian chronological model for a multi-generational sequence situated entirely on a plateau in the 14C calibration curve. Calibrated dates of individual human bones from the Late Neolithic gallery grave at Niedertiefenbach, Hesse, Germany, span the entire calibration plateau in the late 4th millennium (ca. 3350–3100/3000 cal BC), but our model restricts the overall period of burial to 3–6 generations centered on the later 3200s, and provides narrower absolute date ranges for specific individuals and associated events. We confirm the accuracy and robustness of this model by sensitivity tests of each of its components. Beyond providing a more dynamic narrative for the formation of the heterogenous burial population at Niedertiefenbach, our results show that calibration plateaus are suitable periods for Bayesian chronological modeling of even relatively brief sequences, provided that all the information employed is correct. Prior information constraining both the order of events, and of potential date differences between them, is essential for the model to give accurate, unimodal estimates of the dates of these events.