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Stable isotope evidence for dietary and cultural change over the Holocene at the Sabana de Bogotá region, Northern South America

Abstract

The Sabana de Bogotá in the northern Andes is an interesting region to investigate temporal patterns of dietary variation because it counts with a vast archeological and osteological record for the last 10,000 years. In this paper, stable isotope data of human archeological bone collagen and apatite were used to study the evolution of diet and major subsistence transformations taking place during the Holocene (∼9000–600 cal BP). Paleoenvironmental reconstructions and the isotopic ecology of the Sabana de Bogotá were used as an interpretative baseline. Stable isotope measurements (δ13Ccol, δ13Cap, δ15N, and Δ13Ccol-ap) representing hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists, and agriculturalists (N = 134 individuals) were analyzed by using bivariate, regressional, and discriminant statistical techniques. Results show that early Holocene hunter-gatherers (9000–7000 cal BP) consumed mostly C3 vegetal resources locally available. In contrast, animal protein was less important. Middle Holocene hunter-gatherers (6000–4500 cal BP) continued with the food foraging pattern observed in the earlier counterparts and presented a slight increase in C3 animal protein intake. During the initial late Holocene ca. 4000 cal BP, important shifts in subsistence strategies occurred when populations presented a trend toward mixed C3/C4 diets, and by ca. 3500 cal BP, there is a clear signal of C4 crops (i.e., maize) consumption concomitant with the introduction of ceramic technology. During the final late Holocene (last 2000 cal years BP), intensive agriculture was adopted and humans presented relatively diverse diets integrated by C4 and C3 crops, C3-C4 feeding animals, and freshwater resources. Such dietary change coincides with an increase in sociopolitical complexity, population size, and a general decline in health.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank German Mora and Arnoud Boom for sharing their data on carbon isotopes from paleoenvironmental researches. Thanks to Javier Giraldo (Universidad del Cauca, Colombia) and Alejandra Ortíz (Arizona State University, USA) for their useful comments on early drafts of this paper. Thanks to Alexandra Delgado for help with the English version of the manuscript. This research was partially supported by the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET, Argentina) and Fundación de Investigaciones Arqueológicas Nacionales (FIAN, Colombia) (project no. 409-2010).

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Delgado, M. Stable isotope evidence for dietary and cultural change over the Holocene at the Sabana de Bogotá region, Northern South America. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 10, 817–832 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-016-0403-3

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Keywords

  • Stable isotopes
  • Cultural and dietary change
  • Northern Andes
  • Holocene