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Tales from the crypt: teeth as archaeologically linked proxies for paleoenvironment

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Friday, 11 October 2013,  4:00 PM

October 11, 2013. 4:00 PM. Tales from the crypt: teeth as archaeologically linked proxies for paleoenvironment. Suzanne Pilaar Birch, Postdoctoral Fellow, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown UniversityBiological Sciences Room 302. Douglass Campus. This is a Department of Anthropology Seminar co-sponsored by the Rutgers Climate Institute.

 

"I am interested in human adaptation and resilience to climate change and natural resource unpredictability in prehistory, and how our understanding of past human response to environmental change informs current thinking about these issues. "

Paleoenvironmental reconstructions at archaeological sites are usually based on analyses of regional proxy data, which may only be loosely correlated to site stratigraphy. What if there was another method that would allow for an archaeologically-linked means of reconstructing site environments? As teeth grow, they record chemical signatures that do not change once the enamel is formed, similar to seashells and tree-rings. I will discuss data from stable isotope analysis of herbivore tooth enamel as an alternative environmental proxy, using cave sites in Croatia dated to the end of the last ice age and the Pleistocene-Holocene transition as a case study. Oxygen data can be used to track fluctuations in temperature, while carbon values may be
indicative of changing groundcover. Combined with existing methods, the isotopic sampling of teeth is a viable method of generating robust, microregional paleoenvironmental data that can be directly linked to archaeological contexts.

 

Location Biological Sciences Building, Third Floor, Room 302, Douglass Campus, Rutgers University

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