Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopic signatures of human dietary change in the Georgia Bight

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1992 Oct;89(2):197-214. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330890206.


Measurement of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (delta 13C and delta 15N) in samples of human bone collagen (n = 93) from a temporal series of four prehistoric (early preagricultural, late preagricultural, early agricultural, late agricultural) and two historic (early contact, late contact) periods from the Georgia Bight, a continental embayment on the southeastern U.S. Atlantic coast, reveals a general temporal trend for less negative delta 13C values and less positive delta 15N values. This trend reflects a concomitant decrease in emphasis on marine resources and increased reliance on C4-based resources, especially maize. This dietary reorientation is most apparent for the early agricultural sample (AD 1150-1300), coinciding with the Mississippian fluorescence in the eastern United States. There is, however, a shift toward the use of C3 (non-maize) foods during the last prehistoric period (AD 1300-1450), which is likely related to environmental stress and social disruption. A heavier use of maize and terrestrial resources in general after the establishment of mission centers on barrier islands is indicated. A reduced dietary breadth during the mission period may have contributed to the extinction of these populations in the eighteenth century.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaeology
  • Bone and Bones / chemistry*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Collagen / chemistry*
  • Diet*
  • Georgia
  • Hominidae*
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen Isotopes


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Collagen