An Isotopic and Morphometric Examination of Island Dogs (Canis familiaris): Comparing Dietary and Mobility Patterns in the Precolumbian Caribbean

Gene T. Shev*, Jason E. Laffoon, Sandrine Grouard, Corinne L. Hofman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In precolumbian insular Caribbean archaeological sites, domestic dog (Canis familiaris) remains have been recovered from varied contexts, such as formal burials, in refuse deposits, and as modified artifacts, indicating their complex and multifaceted role within indigenous societies. In this study, isotopic and morphometric analyses provide biochemical and morphological correlations to assess this differential treatment. We examined collagen values (n = 21) of carbon (δ13Cco) and nitrogen (δ15N), and enamel values (n = 81) of carbon (δ13Cen), oxygen (δ18Oen), and strontium (87Sr/86Sr) of dog remains from 16 precolumbian sites. Five comparative parameters were used to assess dietary variations between different groups: buried versus nonburied, local versus nonlocal, Greater versus Lesser Antilles, chronology, and modified versus unmodified remains. The only statistically significant difference in diets was between local and nonlocal dogs. Sufficient data were available to conduct isotopic mixing models using the FRUITS statistical program on four individuals for which depositional and morphological data were available. Results of dietary modeling indicate an unexpectedly heavy reliance on plant foods consistent with intentional feeding. This approach highlights the utility of combining isotope analysis, dietary models, morphometrics, and depositional context to provide comprehensive biographic overviews of individual animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)632-638
Number of pages7
JournalLatin American Antiquity
Volume31
Issue number3
Early online date11 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Keywords

  • Caribbean archaeology
  • dietary mixing models
  • dog domestication
  • isotopic analysis
  • morphometrics
  • paleodiet

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