Determination of geographic origin of unprovenanced Aboriginal skeletal remains in South Australia employing stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis.
Pate, Frank Donald
Owen, Timothy D
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Bone collagen stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of prehistoric human remains recovered from various known localities in southeastern South Australia provide isotopic signatures that distinguish the following geographic regions: the coastal Coorong, the coastal Murray River Mouth, Swanport (Lower Murray River), and Roonka (Upper Murray River). These regional isotopic signatures are employed to determine geographic origin of unprovenanced Aboriginal skeletal remains curated by the South Australian Museum. Nearly 85% of the unprovenanced sample (77/91) could be assigned to a particular geographic zone on the basis of isotopic values, and a further 13% (12/91) were assigned to areas intermediate between two geographic zones. Only two of the 91 individuals possessed anomalous isotopic values in relation to the standard values derived from known geographic localities. Isotopic analysis provides an independent means to address geographic origin of skeletal remains that can supplement other methods, e.g. metric, non-metric, and DNA analysis.