Dietary resilience among hunter-gatherers of Tierra del Fuego: Isotopic evidence in a diachronic perspective

Mary Anne Tafuri, Atilio Francisco Javier Zangrando, Augusto Tessone, Sayuri Kochi, Jacopo Moggi Cecchi, Fabio DI Vincenzo, Antonio Profico, Giorgio Manzi

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The native groups of Patagonia have relied on a hunter-gatherer economy well after the first Europeans and North Americans reached this part of the world. The large exploitation of marine mammals (i.e., seals) by such allochthonous groups has had a strong impact on the local ecology in a way that might have forced the natives to adjust their subsistence strategies. Similarly, the introduction of new foods might have changed local diet. These are the premises of our isotopic-based analysis. There is a large set of paleonutritional investigations through isotopic analysis on Fuegians groups, however a systematic exploration of food practices across time in relation to possible pre- A nd post-contact changes is still lacking. In this paper we investigate dietary variation in hunter-gatherer groups of Tierra del Fuego in a diachronic perspective, through measuring the isotopic ratio of carbon (∂13C) and nitrogen (∂15N) in the bone collagen of human and a selection of terrestrial and marine animal samples. The data obtained reveal an unexpected isotopic uniformity across prehistoric and recent groups, with little variation in both carbon and nitrogen mean values, which we interpret as the possible evidence of resilience among these groups and persistence of subsistence strategies, allowing inferences on the dramatic contraction (and extinction) of Fuegian populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0175594
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

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