Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ARCHEIS (Understanding the onset and impact of Aquatic Resource Consumption in Human Evolution using novel Isotopic tracerS)
Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-02-28
The question of past hominin diets has its role in modern society as its documentation reveals the variability of human diets through times, when we, ourselves, might have to adapt our diets for a more sustainable society. However, the main outcome of this study is a better knowledge of the interaction between human evolution and subsistence strategies.
Recent work demonstrated the sensitivity of Zn isotope composition in bioapatite, the mineral part of bones and teeth, to dietary Zn. By combining classic (C and C/N isotope analyses) and innovative techniques (compound specific C/N and bulk Zn isotope analyses); the ARCHEIS project aims at developing an isotopic tool capable to establish the onset of fish consumption relative to that of shellfish and link the introduction of marine food in hominin diets to their cultural and biological evolution. It will investigate the dependence of d66Zn on trophic level and marine food consumption, by establishing the isotope fractionation mechanisms during intestinal absorption and studying populations consuming aquatic food from different trophic levels: shellfish (low trophic level), fish (intermediate trophic levels) and marine mammals (high trophic levels). The project will also address unsolved questions surrounding the disappearance of pre-Columbian shell mound societies of the Brazilian coast around 2000 BP and the debate on fish consumption of Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic modern humans.
We made excellent progress on the experimental part of the WP1 and the first publication is in preparation. The research expedition is delayed because of the sanitary crisis.
Work Package 2: Exploration of Zn isotope signatures in teeth of archeological populations with known aquatic food consumption.
Because of the COVID-19, this part of the project has been delayed by the postponed arrival of the hired PhD student and postdoc. However, the fauna and human material for this part of the project has been selected (shell midden sites) and a PhD student and a post doc are working on the CSIA on amino acids and Zn isotope analyses. We already published the data for the inland population of Lapa do Santo studied for comparison (Jaouen, Trost et al. 2020, Plos One). We discovered that Zn isotopes are a tracer of the weaning age in archeological populations.
Work Package 3: Development of quasi-non destructive sampling method for Zn isotope analysis
One post doc and a lab engineer of our team are actively working on this aspect of the project (MicroMill and laser ablation). It already gives promising results
Work Package 4: Tracking the rise and fall of aquatic food exploitation in prehistoric times
We finished the isotope analyses of our project tracking aquatic food consumption in the Breton Neolithic. We are actively working on projects involving Paleolithic hominins. The preservation of Zn isotopes in tropical Pleistocene food webs for which organic matter was not preserved has been documented and applied to track ancient hominin diets (Bourgon et al., PNAS, 2020; JHE, 2021). The documentation of a Neandertal's diet through Zn isotopes is about to be published.
Until the end of the project, we aim at documenting how they can be used to track specific types of seafood consumption using a minimal amount of archeological material