Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Biogeochemical studies of hominin dietary ecology began decades ago, and, despite refinements, the basic tools being used and questions being asked have changed little since then. Carbon isotope analyses have had the most impact, with numerous studies showing that up to c.4 Ma, early hominins consumed primarily C3 vegetation, as do extant apes, but thereafter consumption of C4 foods became conspicuous if variable. Paranthropus boisei completely abandoned the ancestral C3 diet by at least 2 Ma to become a C4 consumer, a rarity among primates. These shifts were accompanied by changes in the australopith masticatory package. Applications using trace elements, particularly strontium and barium, as trophic level indicators have been less successful, partly because the distributions of trace elements in foodwebs are poorly understood. Similarly, while the oxygen isotope composition of tooth enamel unquestionably reflects ecology, the influences are complex and too poorly understood to allow unambiguous interpretation.

Keywords: australopiths, stable isotopes, trace elements, enamel, savanna resources, C4 plants

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.