Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Christine D. White

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Fred J. Longstaffe

Joint Supervisor


Inhabited from the Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1470) until the time of Spanish conquest, Túcume was a religious and ceremonial site that was transformed over time into a major urban centre. Archaeological excavations at Túcume have revealed that hundreds of individuals were victims of human sacrifice at the site, where their remains were interred in distinct groupings that are most likely defined by the motivation behind different sacrificial rites. This research employs biogeochemical, archaeological and ethnohistoric data to explore residential mobility related to human sacrifice in and around the site of Túcume, Peru.

This dissertation has two primary foci: one methodological and the other archaeological. Through a comparison of two methods for assessing strontium isotope composition of human tissues it was revealed that Femtosecond Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry generates results that are comparable to chemical processing for enamel, but that bone is a poor target material for laser ablation. Recent concerns regarding the consistency of inter-tissue oxygen isotope spacing were addressed by testing human bone and enamel phosphate and no systematic offset was found. Also, this study investigates the utility of dentin as a proxy for enamel in oxygen isotope analysis in situations where destruction of the crown is either prohibited or undesirable, and finds that analyses of the phosphate portion of primary dentin can be used as a proxy for enamel in stable oxygen isotope studies.

The second component of the dissertation focuses on the use of stable strontium and oxygen isotope analyses of human tissues to better identify first-generation migrants. Environmental samples were utilized, along with archaeological material, to construct a working baseline against which to assess mobility. The extent of geographic relocation was then assessed within two distinct burial groupings, characterized as sacrificial victims on the basis of ethnographic and archaeological information, from Túcume. The two groups demonstrated strikingly different isotopic signatures that suggest very different patterns of mobility for the individuals. The elite group appears to have moved minimally and as a unit, while the mass sacrifice victims originated in a wide variety of regions.