Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of skeletal remains from Azapa 71 and Pica-8, northern Chile: An assessment of human diet and landscape use in the late Holocene

01st June 2012

This thesis presents the results of stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses of human bone from two northern Chilean late Holocene (c.4000 to 700 BP) aged archaeological sites: Azapa 71 (Az-71) in the Azapa Valley of the Arica and Parinacota region, and Pica-8 in the Pampa del Tamarugal inland basin of the Tarapacá region. The thesis seeks to address issues relating to human diet and landscape use in these regions during this time period as well as the reliance, or otherwise, on marine foods and/or agriculture. It also aims to investigate the potential of this information to inform our understanding of the degree of inter-regional social interaction between populations.

The outcomes of this research reveal the importance of using independent analyses, such as stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses, to understand the diets of past populations. Results indicate that both populations retained diets based on terrestrial hunter-gatherer economies, with the addition of marine foods. Further, these marine foods were found to be exploited to a far greater extent than the archaeological evidence for subsistence at the sites suggested. These results challenge the archaeology which to date has potentially over-represented the use of both wild and farmed plant foods by these populations. Archaeological evidence identified at the sites suggests social interaction in the form of trade with highland and coastal populations. However, the social mechanisms explaining how different social groups had access to marine resources continue to remain uncertain.

Bianca Petruzzelli
Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of skeletal remains from Azapa 71 and Pica-8, northern Chile: An assessment of human diet and landscape use in the late Holocene
June 2012
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Thesis Abstracts
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