chapter  6
12 Pages

Can Elemental Analysis of Archaeological Skeletons Determine Past Diet and Health?

Theapplicationofanalysisofskeletaltraceandminorelementsto problemsinprehistorytookitsinspirationfromaseriesofstudiesin the1960sbythreegeologists,Toots,Parker,andVoorhies,whoappliedthetechniquetoreconstructingdietandfoodchainsfromfossilizedanimalbones.Neverbashfulaboutappropriating methodologicalmeanstoservetheirownends,anthropologistsin the1970sand1980sanalyzedthetraceelementsinarchaeological skeletonswithincreasingfrequency.Theobjectiveofmostofthese studieswasthereconstructionofcertainaspectsofpaleodiet;however,concentrationsofcertainelementsmaysignaladerangedmineralmetabolism.Butbeforethearchaeologicalapplicationsof skeletalchemistrycanbefullyappreciated,afewverybasicconcepts inskeletalbiologyneedtobepresented.