Diet and Dietary Variation at Prehistoric Casas Grandes, Mexico
AdvisorKatzenberg, Mary Anne
AuthorMcConnan Borstad, Courtney
Committee MemberMcCafferty, Geoffrey
stable isotope analysis
prehistoric American Southwest and Northern Mexico
carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen
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AbstractThe prehistoric site of Paquimé, also called Casas Grandes, was a major ritual, economic, and agricultural centre in northern Mexico during the Medio period (1200-1450 CE). Social differentiation also became more pronounced during this time, as mortuary treatments and styles show. To assess whether social differentiation is associated with dietary patterns, the stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen from collagen, and the stable carbon isotope ratios from tooth enamel were analyzed. These data were then compared to the variables of local or non-local origin, cultural period, age, sex, and mortuary evidence for high status. The results are complicated but provide unique insights into diet and dietary practices. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values at Casas Grandes are similar to those from other semi-arid sites in the prehistoric American Southwest and Northern Mexico, as well as sites from further south in Mexico and Mesoamerica. Diets initially appeared to vary isotopically. However, there were no significant differences between local and non-local individuals, between the earlier and later cultural periods, between most age categories, and between male and female individuals. There was a significant difference in mean stable hydrogen isotope values between the Viejo and Medio period, attributed to differences in irrigation practices and water use. There was also a significant difference between stable carbon isotope values from early-forming teeth and later-forming teeth that is attributed to dietary differences during infancy and early childhood. Diet was also not isotopically different between individuals buried with mortuary characteristics indicative of high status and those with less distinctive burial treatment, but there was a significant difference between several of the burial units. Several of these units were associated with special ritual activities, while one unit, a house-cluster, was not. Overall, the results of this dissertation underscore the importance of incorporating several lines of evidence about diet when interpreting stable isotope values. This is especially important when assessing diet in middle-range societies where social differentiation was not necessarily hierarchical in nature and diets were more similar than different.
CitationMcConnan Borstad, C. (2021). Diet and Dietary Variation at Prehistoric Casas Grandes, Mexico (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
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