• Assessment of nutritional stress in famine burials using stable isotope analysis

      Walter, B.S.; DeWitte, S.N.; Dupras, T.; Beaumont, Julia (Wiley, 2020-06)
      Objectives: We compared δ15N and δ13C values from bone and dentine collagen profiles of individuals interred in famine‐related and attritional burials to evaluate whether individuals in medieval London who experienced nutritional stress exhibit enriched nitrogen in bone and tooth tissue. Dentine profiles were evaluated to identify patterns that may be indicative of famine during childhood and were compared with the age of enamel hypoplasia (EH) formation to assess whether isotopic patterns of undernutrition coincide with the timing of physiological stress. Materials and Methods: δ15N and δ13C isotope ratios of bone collagen were obtained from individuals (n = 128) interred in attritional and famine burials from a medieval London cemetery (c. 1120–1539). Temporal sequences of δ15N and δ13C isotope profiles for incrementally forming dentine collagen were obtained from a subset of these individuals (n = 21). Results: Results indicate that individuals from attritional graves exhibit significantly higher δ15N values but no significant differences were found between burial types for the sexes. Analyses of dentine profiles reveal that a lower proportion of famine burials exhibit stable dentine profiles and that several exhibit a pattern of opposing covariance between δ15N and δ13C. EH were also observed to have formed during or after the opposing covariance pattern for some individuals. Conclusions: The results of this study may reflect differences in diet between burial types rather than nutritional stress. Though nutritional stress could not be definitively identified using bone and dentine collagen, the results from dentine analysis support previous observations of biochemical patterns associated with nutritional stress during childhood.
    • Childhood diet: a closer examination of the evidence from dental tissues using stable isotope analysis of incremental human dentine

      Beaumont, Julia; Gledhill, Andrew R.; Lee-Thorp, Julia A.; Montgomery, Janet (2013-08-29)
      Incremental dentine analysis utilizes tissue that does not remodel and that permits comparison, at the same age, of those who survived infancy with those who did not at high temporal resolution. Here, we present a pilot study of teeth from a 19th-century cemetery in London, comparing the merits of two methods of obtaining dentine increments for subsequent isotope determination. Covariation in ¿13C and ¿15N values suggests that even small variations have a physiological basis. We show that high-resolution intra-dentine isotope profiles can pinpoint short-duration events such as dietary change or nutritional deprivation in the juvenile years of life.
    • A new method for investigating the relationship between diet and mortality: hazard analysis using dietary isotopes

      Redfern, R.C.; DeWitte, S.N.; Beaumont, Julia; Millard, A.R.; Hamlin, C. (2019)
      Bioarchaeological and clinical data show that diet influences health, and this relationship is crucial to how we understand past health with respect to sex and age. We propose a new method that coinvestigates the relationship between mortality risk and diet in the past. Our method integrates dietary stable isotope data (δ13 Carbon and δ 15 Nitrogen) from Roman Britain (N=659) with hazards analysis. The results show that these data can be informatively used in this type of analysis in general, and that in the context of Roman Britain, higher δ 13C is associated with lower risks of mortality while higher δ 15N is associated with elevated risks of mortality. Importantly, the results emphasize that a bioarchaeological approach to interpretation must be taken in order to more fully understand the results obtained by the method