Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Analysis: A Comparison of Modern Calculus, Hair and Fingernail
AdvisorScott, George R.
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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis has been used to reflect dietary signatures in humans and animals. For ancient human remains, bone collagen and bone apatite are the traditional biomaterials used to estimate stable isotope ratios. For modern populations, hair and fingernail are used toward this end. Recent work indicates that dental calculus from ancient remains may be another viable biomaterial for stable isotope analysis. Because its collection is technically non-destructive, the use of dental calculus for stable isotope analysis could have benefits in cases where destructive analysis is prohibited. To help establish the utility of calculus as an isotope proxy, the present research analyzed modern calculus, along with the established biomaterials of hair and fingernail, to determine the extent to which they yield comparable isotope ratios. The analysis shows there is a strong and significant correlation between the stable carbon isotope ratios of modern calculus, hair and fingernails. In contrast, there is no correlation for stable nitrogen isotope ratios between calculus and either hair or nail. Based on the high weight percentages of carbon and nitrogen in some calculus samples, these findings may be complicated by components in plaque and saliva.