International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 415–440 | Cite as

Integrating Stable Isotope and Zooarchaeological Analyses in Historical Archaeology: A Case Study from the Urban Nineteenth-Century Commonwealth Block Site, Melbourne, Australia

  • Eric J. Guiry
  • Bernice Harpley
  • Zachary Jones
  • Colin Smith


This paper presents the first use of bone collagen stable isotope analyses for the purpose of reconstructing historical animal husbandry and trade practices in Australia. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses of 51 domesticate and commensal specimens demonstrate that meats consumed at the mid to late nineteenth-century Commonwealth Block site in Melbourne derived from animals with a diverse range of isotopic signatures. Potential factors contributing to this diversity including animal trade and variability in local animal husbandry practices are discussed. From these results we suggest that stable isotope-based paleodietary reconstructions have significant potential to illuminate a variety of human-animal relations in Australia’s historical period as well as other New World contexts.


Stable isotopes Animal husbandry Trade Australia 



Guidance, sampling permissions, and technical assistance have been provided by Charlotte Smith from Museum Victoria, Tim Murray, Susan Lawrence, and Dylan Cosgrove from LaTrobe University and Vaughan Grimes and Alison Pye from Memorial University. This work has been made possible through funds provided by an Endeavour Research Fellowship to EG and a grant from the Smallwood Foundation. CS would like to acknowledge the Australian Research Council (Future Fellowship Grant Number: FT0992258). Charlotte Smith, Tim Murray, and BH would also like to thank the Australian Research Council (Linkage Grant Number: LP0989224).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric J. Guiry
    • 1
  • Bernice Harpley
    • 2
  • Zachary Jones
    • 2
  • Colin Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Archaeology, Environment and Community PlanningLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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