Stable isotopes and dietary composition in the mid-late 19 th century anglican population, Adelaide,South Australia

Frank Pate, Timothy Anson

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    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Analyses of faunal remains from archaeological excavations and historical documents indicate that the protein component of colonial South Australian diets was dominated by meat (beef and mutton) and marine foods (fish and shellfish). Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of human bone collagen is employed to determine the relative proportions of terrestrial versus marine protein in the diets of a mid-late 19th century working class Anglican community in Adelaide, South Australia. The bone collagen isotope values for St Mary's cemetery population indicate that the average protein component of the adult diet consisted of approximately 60% terrestrial meat (e.g., beef, mutton), 32% seafood (e.g., fish, shellfish), and 8% terrestrial vegetation (e.g., wheat, barley). On average, adults in the sample had similar diets in relation to protein composition. More positive stable carbon (+ 0.3‰) and nitrogen (+ 0.5‰) isotope values in males suggest that they ingested greater quantities of seafood than did females, but the difference was small, i.e., only 3-5% more seafood. Elevated nitrogen isotope values (+ 1.7‰) in infants relative to adult females suggest that breast milk was a principal component of infant diets.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of the Anthropological Society of South Australia
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


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