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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Stable isotope ratios of bone collagen have been used to determine trophic levels in diverse archaeological populations. The longest established and arguably most successful isotope system has been nitrogen, followed by carbon, and more recently hydrogen. These trophic level proxies rely on a predictable change in isotope ratio with each trophic level step; however, this requirement may not always be met, which can lead to difficulties in interpreting archaeological evidence. In agricultural communities, in particular, there are several possible complications to the interpretation of nitrogen and carbon isotopes. Recent approaches to overcome these limitations include better quantification and understanding of the influences on consumer isotope ratios; inclusion of evidence from plant remains; further investigation of apatite δ13C—collagen δ13C spacing in bones; measurement of carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in individual amino acids, rather than collagen; and development of other stable isotope proxies for trophic level, such as hydrogen isotopes.

Keywords: carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, isotope ratios, amino acids, collagen

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