Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Stable isotope analysis has been used by archaeologists and anthropologists to better understand time, provenience, and diet of past humans, but the utility of stable isotope analysis in modern humans has not been fully explored. Forensic anthropologists today primarily identify human skeletal remains, and stable isotope analysis of bone may narrow down the possible identities of an individual. Determining the natural variability within the state of Louisiana is the first step in determining whether individuals from different areas of the state are distinguishable from one another. This thesis investigated the natural isotopic variability in Louisiana with respect to oxygen (δ18O), carbon (δ13C), and strontium (ε87Sr) by sampling the bones of white tailed deer throughout the state, as well as two raccoons and one fox. The deer revealed distinct value regions for all three isotopes, which were found to be in agreement with available water data for the state. The two raccoons, fox, and deer in comparison against each other revealed measurable differences between natural and urban fauna of the same region, between omnivores and herbivores of the same environment, and between natural and urban omnivores. These differences provide evidence that modern humans should exhibit values different than the natural environment due to a grocery store diet and allow for the extension of the project to investigate the variability among Louisiana cities. It was also determined that Cascade dish detergent does not inhibit stable isotope analysis of δ18O and δ13C, but more work must be done to understand the interaction of Cascade and ε87Sr.



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Committee Chair

Manhein, Mary