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FASEB J. 1999 Mar;13(3):559-62.

The Ice Man's diet as reflected by the stable nitrogen and carbon isotopic composition of his hair.

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1
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903, USA.

Abstract

Establishing the diets of ancient human populations is an integral component of most archaeological studies. Stable isotope analysis of well-preserved bone collagen is the most direct approach for a general assessment of paleodiet. However, this method has been limited by the scarcity of well-preserved skeletal materials for this type of destructive analysis. Hair is preserved in many burials, but is often overlooked as an alternative material for isotopic analysis. Here we report that the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values for the hair of the 5200 year-old Ice Man indicates a primarily vegetarian diet, in agreement with his dental wear pattern. Whereas previous investigations have focused on bone collagen, the stable isotope composition of hair may prove to be a more reliable proxy for paleodiet reconstruction, particularly when skeletal remains are not well preserved and additional archaeological artifacts are unavailable.

PMID:
10064623
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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