Using oxygen isotope analysis and a multi-isotopic approach in determining the region of origin of human remains
Eck, Christopher John
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Multi-isotopic approaches have been used effectively to help provide estimated geographic origins for unidentified skeletal remains in cold case homicides and archaeological contexts, when DNA testing was not practical. Stable oxygen and strontium isotopes were used in the present study in order to determine their effectiveness of proveniencing human remains from Colombia and New England. Enamel hydroxyapatite was extracted from individual teeth (n=151) from individuals with known birthplaces for different regions of Colombia as well as the region of New England in the United States. All oxygen data is presented as a ratio of δ18O /δ16O (‰PDB). The results show significant geographical differences (p ≤ 0.001), between the Colombian and New England populations. The mean δ18O value for Colombia is -11.06 ± 1.28. The mean 87Sr/86Sr value for Colombia is 0.707391 ± 0.0016. The mean δ18O value of the samples from the United States is -7.42 ± 1.39. The mean 87Sr/86Sr value for the samples from the United States is 0.7099747 ± 0.0011. The oxygen and strontium ratios of the sample set have no significant differences within each geographic region. Additionally, a small subset of the immigrant community in Boston, MA is represented within the sample. There is a significant difference (p ≤ 0.002) in the population’s mean δ18O values. The establishment of this oxygen and strontium isoscape has the potential to provenience unidentified human remains recovered as a result of Colombia’s long-term internal conflict.