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Assessing human diet and movement in the Tongan maritime chiefdom using isotopic analyses.

Stantis, C., Kinaston, R. L., Richards, M. P., Davidson, J. M. and Buckley, H. R., 2015. Assessing human diet and movement in the Tongan maritime chiefdom using isotopic analyses. PLoS One, 10 (3), e0123156.

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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123156


The rise of stratified societies fundamentally influences the interactions between status, movement, and food. Using isotopic analyses, we assess differences in diet and mobility of individuals excavated from two burial mounds located at the `Atele burial site on Tongatapu, the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga (c. 500 - 150 BP). The first burial mound (To-At-1) was classified by some archaeologists as a commoner's mound while the second burial mound (To-At-2) was possibly used for interment of the chiefly class. In this study, stable isotope analyses of diet (δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S; n = 41) are used to asses paleodiet and 87Sr/86Sr ratios (n = 30) are analyzed to investigate individual mobility to test whether sex and social status affected these aspects of life. Our results show significant differences in diet between burial mounds and sexes. Those interred in To-At-2 displayed lower δ13C values, indicating they ate relatively more terrestrial plants (likely starchy vegetable staples) compared with To-At-1 individuals. Females displayed significantly lower δ15N values compared with males within the entire assemblage. No differences in δ34S values were observed between sexes or burial mound but it is possible that sea spray or volcanism may have affected these values. One individual displayed the strontium isotopic composition representative of a nonlocal immigrant (outside 2SD of the mean). This suggests the hegemonic control over interisland travel, may have prevented long-term access to the island by non-Tongans exemplifying the political and spiritual importance of the island of Tongatapu in the maritime chiefdom.

Item Type:Article
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:32545
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:18 Jul 2019 14:20
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:17


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