Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Robert H. Tykot, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nancy M. White, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent R. Wiesman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lorena Madrigal Ph.D.


Isotope, South America, Tehuelche, Carbon, Nitrogen


This study investigates the isotopic signatures of human skeletal remains that were recovered from several sites along the coast and inland in the north-central Patagonian region of Argentina. Human skeletal remains, dating from 2500 BP through the early historic period, are examined to determine the relative significance of terrestrial and aquatic food resources and subsequently, the extent to which coastal food resources were exploited by indigenous Argentinians. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes contained within human bone collagen and apatite are measured quantitatively to determine the relative significance of marine and terrestrial foods. This study, one of the first isotopic studies of indigenous diet on the Atlantic coast of Argentina, is significant because it provides initial results to be used for the reconstruction of aboriginal subsistence patterns prior to and after European contact. Results of this study, based upon preliminary data, suggest that there are isotopic correlations that support archaeological evidence recovered from rock shelters in southern Patagonia. Archaeological remains and ethnohistoric accounts indicate that prehistoric hunter-gatherers (the Tehuleche), located inland or along the coast, were primarily reliant upon terrestrial food sources such as the guanaco, rhea, and other terrestrial fauna. The isotopic evidence suggests that for coastal indigenous people, marine food resources were as important a food resource as terrestrial foods.