Kimberly Kjaisa Foecke

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

George Washington U.

Grant number

Gr. 9961

Approve Date

October 29, 2019

Project Title

Foecke, Kimberly (George Washington U.) "Deconstructing the δ15N Paleodietary Proxy: Putrefaction, Processing Effects, Proteomics, and Implications for Hominin Diets," supervised by Dr. Alison Brooks

Paleodietary reconstruction is an important line of evidence in the study of human evolution. The unique dietary adaptations of modern humans and their recent relatives reflect extreme adaptability and cultural complexity, keys to the evolutionary success of our lineage. Stable isotope research at the forefront of paleodietary reconstruction. The nitrogen isotope system is extensively applied to the human archaeological record. Early work showed that nitrogen isotope ratios in bone roughly track the trophic level of an organism. This insight has been applied to the archaeological record to predict the trophic level of humans. Though often utilized, this proxy is subject to complications stemming from a limited understanding of nitrogen isotope behavior under certain biological and culturally-mediated processes like rotting and cooking. Thus, it is currently impossible to accurately predict their effects on paleodietary reconstruction. Therefore, the proposed project will refine our understanding of nitrogen isotope fractionation mechanisms in these processes, provide testable predictions for paleodietary reconstruction based on an isotope mixing model, and apply the isotope mixing model to a case study question in Neanderthal dietary reconstruction.