Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of early Mississippian diet at Cahokia mound 72

Matthew A. Fort, Kristin M Hedman, Stanley H. Ambrose

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Mound 72 is an elaborate ritual/mortuary complex comprised of 26 mortuary features and including remains of over 270 individuals with evidence for elite burials, human sacrifice, and violent death that is central to our understanding of ritual beliefs and practices, and social and political organization at Cahokia. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes of human bones and teeth from downtown Cahokia provide direct evidence for diet and indirect evidence of social distinctions. Previous isotopic results from Mound 72 (Ambrose et al. 2003) show that diets of high status individuals included less maize and more animal protein than those of mid status or sacrificed individuals. We present new isotope data from 200 individuals and 14 burial locations within Greater Cahokia, including a significantly larger sample (n = 72) from Cahokia’s Mound 72, and provide critical new information on dietary variation during the rise and fall of this important Mississippian polity. Correlations are drawn with age and sex, archaeological evidence of social status and mortuary treatment, strontium evidence for place of origin (Slater et al. 2014), and new AMS dates. Our results confirm earlier studies indicating lower maize/higher protein diets for high status individuals, and increased maize consumption through time and with strontium isotope evidence for movement to Cahokia. These data provide new insight into the dietary heterogeneity of elite and symbolically significant figures central to current interpretations of the founding, social organization, and symbolic dimensions of the Mississippian political center of Cahokia.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2015


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