Comparing stable isotopes across body tissues: a case study based on southern African farmers

Madeline Zhu will present the Department of Archaeology seminar and will summarise some of the findings in her Masters thesis, presenting a talk entitled, "Comparing stable isotopes across body tissues: a case study based on southern African farmers".

Stable isotope analyses of consumer tissues are now a well-established way of reconstructing diet in life. Recent studies increasingly analyse multiple tissues (tooth enamel, bone collagen, bone apatite, etc) from the same individual, because protein tissues such as collagen are formed largely from dietary protein, while non-protein tissues such as enamel and bone apatite are formed from a mixture of dietary proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This phenomenon of ‘metabolic routing’, the differential translation of dietary components (and their characteristic stable isotope ratios) to different bodily tissues is a well-established, but not very well understood, phenomenon. Here, I present the largest (N=51) multi-tissue isotopic dataset for Iron Age (2000-100 BP) agriculturalists in southern Africa. Dietary reconstructions based on traditional ‘fractionation factor’ methods are compared with reconstructions based on influential recent bi- and multi-variate models in the literature. These models were created using data sets from other parts of the world (generally lacking substantial C4 components), and some limitations are revealed by expanding them to include these data. 

Monday, April 3, 2017 - 13:00

Beattie Lecture Theatre 3.10, Upper Campus, UCT