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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 Feb;138(2):199-209. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20919.

The petrous bone--a new sampling site for identifying early dietary patterns in stable isotopic studies.

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Centre for Forensic Science, School of Conservation Sciences, University of Bournemouth, Dorset BH12 5BB, England, UK.


Intraskeletal variation in the composition of carbon (delta(13)C) and nitrogen (delta(15)N) stable isotopes measured in collagen is tested from various human bones and dentine. Samples were taken from the femur, rib, and petrous part of the temporal bone from well-preserved skeletons of both adults (n = 34) and subadults (n = 24). Additional samples of dentine from the root of 1st molars were taken from 16 individuals. The skeletal material is from a medieval cemetery (AD 1200-1573) in Holbaek, Denmark. Our results indicate that the petrous bone has an isotopic signal that differs significantly from that of femur and rib within the single skeleton (P < 0.001 and P < 0.001, respectively), with only minor variation seen between femur and rib. On the other hand, there was no significant difference between the petrous bone and the 1st molar. The intraskeletal variation may reflect differences in turnover rate among skeletal elements. The inner periosteal layer of the petrous bone is formed in uterus and does not undergo any further remodelling after the age of 2 years, whereas the rib and femur have a continuous turnover rate of approximately 5 and 10-20 years, respectively. From the results of this study it is believed the petrous bone may be a new useful bone element and a supplement or a proxy for teeth in the analysis of early dietary patterns as it may reflect diet in fetal stages and early years of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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