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Journal of Anthropology
Volume 2013, Article ID 258190, 13 pages
Research Article

New Data on Food Consumption in Pre-Hispanic Populations from Northwest Argentina (ca. 1000–1550 A.D.): The Contribution of Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopic Composition of Human Bones

CONICET-Instituto de Arqueología, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 25 de Mayo 217, 3rd floor, C1002ABD Buenos Aires, Argentina

Received 29 April 2013; Revised 18 July 2013; Accepted 22 August 2013

Academic Editor: Maryna Steyn

Copyright © 2013 María Soledad Gheggi and Verónica Isabel Williams. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We present data on carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition of human bones from Tolombón (Calchaqui Valley, Salta) and Esquina de Huajra (Quebrada de Humahuaca, Jujuy) sites located in Northwest Argentina (NWA). Both are complex archaeological residential settlements ascribed to the Regional Development Period (ca. 900–1430 A.D.), the Inca Period (ca. 1430–1536 A.D.), and the Early Colonial Period (ca. 1536–1600 A.D.). Twelve samples of human bones were collected and analyzed, including remains from individuals of both sexes and different ages at death. We also present the carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition of modern plants from nearby areas in order to start building an isotopic ecology of the area and compile available information on food consumption from different lines of evidence. The isotopic results obtained reveal the consumption of C4 plants, which for the area are maize and amaranth, combined with animal proteins. The integration of these results with the broader database was useful to discuss the political and economical implications of the findings, especially in the context of this area under the Inca domination.