Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Christine White and Dr. Fred Longstaffe


Stable carbon–, nitrogen–, and oxygen–isotope analyses of animal bones and teeth from 28 archaeological sites are used to reconstruct human subsistence behaviour, i.e., increased maize horticulturalism, during the Late Woodland period (A.D. 1000–1650) in southwestern Ontario. The isotopic data provided dietary, seasonal, and geographic information, which was analysed within archaeological, symbolic, and ecological contexts and used to reconstruct the diets, hunting patterns, and animal processing practices of two neighbouring groups, the Ontario Iroquoian and Western Basin peoples.

Paleodietary and seasonality analyses focused on the following species: canids (domestic dogs, foxes, and wolves), wild turkeys and white-tailed deer, though additional fauna (including black bears, raccoons, and squirrels) were also analysed. Bone (n=324) and dentine (n=11) collagen provided dietary information, specifically concerning access to maize and trophic position. The carbon– and nitrogen–isotope composition of modern plants (n= 8) and animals (n=87) was used to expand the local food web and understand abilities of modern animals to access crops. Structural carbonate isotopic analyses for archaeological (n=126) and modern (n=28) individuals provided additional information about trophic position, post–mortem alteration, and geographic affiliation. Serially sampled enamel was analysed for several deer and a dog, and was successfully paired with x–radiographs to create an enamel formation sequence, which enables reconstruction of short term (seasonal) diets.

The domestic dog isotopic data expanded our understanding of human dietary change over the Late Woodland period for both Ontario Iroquoian and Western Basin peoples, including different emphases on protein sources (i.e., fish). Wild fauna, particularly foxes, wild turkeys, raccoons and squirrels, were able to access maize. The turkey isotopic data suggest a unique hunting strategy at some Ontario Iroquoian sites, i.e., the purposeful discard of maize to create a predictable field hunting zone. An unexpected relationship between the δ13Ccol and δ13Csc values of deer appears to reflect a post–mortem processing (i.e., boiling) practice. This thesis has expanded our understanding of Late Woodland diets, horticultural and hunting practices. It has also demonstrated that fauna may be used to reconstruct human behaviour and ideology in lieu of the destructive analysis of human remains.