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Reconstructing Individual and Population Diet at Fishergate House: Application of a New Microsampling Method for Stable Isotope Analysis Open Access


Other title
Fishergate House
stable isotope analysis
dietary reconstruction
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Burt, Nicole M
Supervisor and department
Garvie-Lok, Sandra (Anthropology)
Examining committee member and department
Amin, Maryam (Dentistry)
Lovell, Nancy (Anthropology)
Vallianatos, Helen (Anthropology)
Dupras, Tosha (Anthropology)
Beattie, Owen (Anthropology)
Department of Anthropology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The stable isotope signature of childhood diet changes from a fetal signal (similar to the mother), to a breastfeeding signal, and finally to a weaned signal, which may or many not match the adult diet. The patterning of these changes can give insight into child feeding practices and parenting. A stable isotope microsampling method was created to allow the analysis of these diets in a single individual. Tooth dentine was used as once formed it does not remodel, as does human bone. The method was developed and tested on a modern sample of 33 teeth collected from Edmonton, Alberta. The results showed changing early childhood diet with some individuals being breastfed, while others were bottle fed. Despite the large variety of weaning foods available to modern families, the weaned child diet was surprisingly uniform and did not reflect the variation seen in Canadian adults. Dentine analysis using the new microsampling technique, as well as rib stable isotope analysis, was used to reconstruct juvenile diet from the Fishergate House (14th – 16th century) York, UK. 62 juvenile samples and 11 adult female samples were collected. No previous dietary reconstructions of the children from this site have been run, so it was important to establish the time of weaning for the population during this critical period of early childhood that often results in infant death. The high level of mortality for four to six year olds at Fishergate House led previous researchers to believe weaning was taking place at this time. In contrast, the results of this work showed that weaning was complete by two years. By looking at individuals, it is possible to see variation in weaning practice that reflects the individual choices of mothers and children at Fishergate House. The dietary information for Fishergate House was also compared with growth and pathological data from the site to look more closely at health. The results of this study show that by looking at weaning at a population and individual level it is possible to look at the overall early childhood feeding pattern as well as at deviation from that pattern
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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