Introducing δ88/86Sr analysis in archaeology: A demonstration of the utility of strontium isotope fractionation in paleodietary studies

Kelly J. Knudson, Hope M. Williams, Jane E. Buikstra, Paula D. Tomczak, Gwyneth W. Gordon, Ariel D. Anbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Isotopic methods are widely used in archaeology to investigate paleodiet. Here, we present a new method to identify trophic level in archaeological human populations and to investigate paleodiet. We demonstrate that strontium isotope compositions (reported as δ88/86Sr) vary in a mass-dependent manner with increasing trophic level and can elucidate paleodiet in archaeological human populations. We present new mass-dependent strontium isotope data from tooth enamel and bone from individuals buried during the Late Intermediate Period (c. AD 1000-1300) in the large cemeteries of Chiribaya Alta, Chiribaya Baja, San Gerónimo, and El Yaral in the Ilo and Moquegua Valleys of southern Peru. We compare these data to radiogenic strontium isotope data (87Sr/86Sr) and light stable isotope data (δ15Ncol and δ13Ccol) from the same individuals to investigate geologic variability in strontium sources as well as marine food consumption among the Chiribaya. Our results demonstrate the utility of measurements of strontium isotope fractionation as a new tool for archaeological investigation of paleodiet. Importantly, this new technique can be used to generate paleodietary (δ88/86Sr) and paleomobility (87Sr/86Sr) data from the same specimen, minimizing destructive analyses of invaluable archaeological material, and provides a new way to examine paleodiet through hydroxyapatite, which is particularly important when collagen is poorly preserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2352-2364
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Andes
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Bone chemistry
  • Chiribaya
  • Radiogenic strontium
  • South America
  • Stable strontium
  • Trophic level

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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