Compound-specific amino acid isotopic proxies for distinguishing between terrestrial and aquatic resource consumption

Emily C. Webb, Noah V. Honch, Philip J.H. Dunn, Anna Linderholm, Gunilla Eriksson, Kerstin Lidén, Richard P. Evershed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
455 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date21 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Amino acids
  • Carbon isotopes
  • Mixing models
  • Neolithic
  • Palaeodiet
  • Sweden


Dive into the research topics of 'Compound-specific amino acid isotopic proxies for distinguishing between terrestrial and aquatic resource consumption'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this