Compound-specific amino acid isotopic proxies for distinguishing between terrestrial and aquatic resource consumption Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2016, The Author(s). Compound-specific amino acid carbon-isotope compositions have shown particular promise for elucidating dietary behaviors in complex environmental contexts, and may also be able to mitigate the effect of many of the limitations inherent to palaeodietary reconstructions. Here, we investigate the efficacy of compound-specific amino acid isotopic proxies in characterizing the consumption of different dietary protein sources using amino acid carbon-isotope compositions for humans and fauna from Rössberga (Early to Middle Neolithic), Köpingsvik (Mesolithic and Middle Neolithic), and Visby (Medieval Period), Sweden. We also assess the explanatory capabilities of an isotopic mixing model when used with essential amino acid carbon-isotope compositions of humans and local fauna. All three isotopic proxies distinguished among humans from the three sites consistently and informatively, and were able to enhance the broad interpretations made using bulk isotopic compositions. The mixing model palaeodietary reconstruction revealed considerable diversity in relative protein source contributions among individuals at both Köpingsvik and Visby. Comparing the mixing model for bulk carbon- and nitrogen-isotope compositions to the model for essential amino acid isotopic compositions further demonstrated the likelihood of underestimation and overestimation of marine protein consumption for both aquatic-dominant and mixed marine-terrestrial diets when using bulk isotopic compositions.

altmetric score

  • 3.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Webb, E. C., Honch, N. V., Dunn, P., Linderholm, A., Eriksson, G., Lidén, K., & Evershed, R. P.

citation count

  • 10

publication date

  • February 2018