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Abstract

The application of isotopic ratio mass spectrometry to archaeological science has produced many important contributions to the study and understanding of ancient human and animal populations. Paleodietary reconstruction through the analysis of stable isotope ratios in skeletal, dental, and soft tissue remains presents another avenue for interpreting the past. The methodology employed to obtain isotopic data from archaeological remains directly influences the types of questions that can be addressed and the interpretation of the data. Furthermore, there are fundamental idiosyncrasies of archaeological specimens and their ante- and post-mortem environments that may influence the results of an isotopic study. This paper explores the ways in which the stable isotopic signatures of carbon and nitrogen in type I collagen in archaeological bones and teeth are formed, modified, or destroyed throughout life and in the post-depositional environment. For a comprehensive review of the methodological and interpretive implications of paleodietary reconstruction using stable isotopic analysis, see Ambrose (1993).


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