Ancient Beringian paleodiets revealed through multiproxy stable isotope analyses

Carrin M. Halffman, Ben A. Potter, Holly J. McKinney, Takumi Tsutaya, Bruce P. Finney, Brian M. Kemp, Eric J. Bartelink, Matthew J. Wooller, Michael Buckley, Casey T. Clark, Jessica J. Johnson, Brittany L. Bingham, François B. Lanoë, Robert A. Sattler, Joshua D. Reuther

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4 Scopus citations


The earliest Native Americans have often been portrayed as either megafaunal specialists or generalist foragers, but this debate cannot be resolved by studying the faunal record alone. Stable isotope analysis directly reveals the foods consumed by individuals. We present multi-tissue isotope analyses of two Ancient Beringian infants from the Upward Sun River site (USR), Alaska (∼11,500 years ago). Models of fetal bone turnover combined with seasonally-sensitive taxa show that the carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of USR infant bone collagen reflects maternal diets over the summer. Using comparative faunal isotope data, we demonstrate that although terrestrial sources dominated maternal diets, salmon was also important, supported by carbon isotope analysis of essential amino acids and bone bioapatite. Tooth enamel samples indicate increased salmon use between spring and summer. Our results do not support either strictly megafaunal specialists or generalized foragers but indicate that Ancient Beringian diets were complex and seasonally structured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabc1968
JournalScience Advances
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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