Dr. Steven D. Emslie, University of North Carolina, Department of Biology and Marine Biology, and Dr.William P. Patterson, Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory, University of Saskatchewan, Canada initiated a collaboration with the Perdigões Research Project.
They propose to complete stable isotope analyses of δ13C and δ15N on human remains that have been recovered in Perdigões, in an attempt to understand past diets and variations in diets among the people that lived and circulated there. The well-preserved human bone at Perdigões will be ideal for analyzing collagen for both stable isotopes and mercury using small samples (< 5 g) from each skeleton. These isotopes will provide information on the major trophic level from which these people were subsisting, and whether they had a diet based largely on wild plants and grains or included meat or perhaps some marine-based food sources.
Recent research on strontium isotopes from human remains at this site suggests that the people at this site were from out site the regions where Perdigões is located. The analyses of stable isotopes and mercury may provide additional support for this hypothesis as people migrating from different regions are likely to have considerable variation in δ13C and δ15N in their bone, averaged over a lifetime, as well as different exposures to mercury
A pilot study is undergoing using 20 small samples of human bone (from 20 individuals) from existing collections from Chalcolithic Tomb 1 and 2 and from Neolithic pit graves and Chalcolithic cremated remains. The first results are quite surprising and will be presented at 37th Annual Meeting of the Joint Society of Ethnobiology & Society for Economic Botany Conference, Cherokee, NC, from May 11–14, 2014.
A larger sub-project will be designed for future research in the context of the Global Archaeological Research Programme of Perdigões.