STABLE ISOTOPE ANALYSIS OF BONE COLLAGEN, BONE APATITE, AND TOOTH
ENAMEL IN THE RECONSTRUCTION OF HUMAN DIET: A CASE STUDY FROM CUELLO,
Stable isotope analysis of bone collagen is now a well-established method of studying ancient human diet. Carbon isotope values distinguish between C3 and C4 plants in the terrestrial food web; nitrogen values can indicate marine resource exploitation, terrestrial climate, and trophic level. Unfortunately, the relative contributions of the protein, carbohydrate, and fat portions of the diet to bone collagen and bone apatite are still not fully understood. Stable isotope data for human burials from the Pre-classic Maya site of Cuello, Belize demonstrate that isotopic analysis of both tissues is necessary for proper dietary reconstruction of all but the simplest ancient food webs. Equally important are analyses of the fauna and flora available for human exploitation: at Cuello, it appears that maize-eating dogs may have been a significant dietary component, but there is no evidence that deer were tamed or loose-herded as ethnohistoric accounts suggest.