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For example, one of the most widely studied aspects of human diet in North America has been the investigation of the introduction and development of maize agriculture (farming) as a major form of subsistence in the New World. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes are those most widely used for dietary reconstructions. In addition, nitrogen isotopes can be reflective of climate, in that plants, animals, and humans that inhabit more arid environments can display enriched nitrogen-15 values when compared to those from more mild environments.This was found in the case of the site, where analysis of several of the bison bones displayed significantly enriched nitrogen-15 values, indicating the inhabitation of an extremely arid environment.When archaeological bone material is poorly preserved there may not be enough surviving biological material left for the analysis to be reliable.However, in cases where the bones are well preserved, the isotopic signatures are considered to be representative of the individual specimen (either human or animal) that is being studied.Isotopic analysis is used in a variety of fields across the sciences, such as Geology, Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Ecology.
Different oxygen isotope values are representative of hotter and drier climates, versus those that were colder and wetter.
These isotopes have been used most commonly to study diets of marine versus terrestrial (land based) animals and the intake of particular types of plant resources (for example maize and millet).
Isotopes can be used to assess diet because a direct relationship exists between the type of food being consumed and the corresponding isotopic "signature" found in the bone collagen of both humans and animals.
Variation and adaptation in subsistence (or diet) can be stimulated by developments in socio-political and economic circumstances, as well as by climate and ecological transitions and even by individual choice.
Changes in diet within a particular community can occur at both large and small scales, as well as rapidly or gradually over time. Stable and Radiogenic Isotopes in Biological Archaeology: Some Applications.
Strontium (O) isotopes are most commonly used to reconstruct past movements of both people and animals within a particular time and place.