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Columbus' 'La Isabela' On Hispaniola-First Settlement in New World - UPDATES

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Author Topic: Columbus' 'La Isabela' On Hispaniola-First Settlement in New World - UPDATES  (Read 1999 times)
Bianca
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« on: March 21, 2009, 07:36:02 pm »









Isotopic analysis



The unpublished study relied on isotopic analysis of three elements: carbon, oxygen and strontium.
Carbon isotope ratios provide reliable evidence of diet at the time an individual's adult teeth emerge in childhood. For example, people who eat maize, as opposed to those who consume wheat or rice, have different carbon isotope ratio profiles locked in their tooth enamel.


"Heavy carbon means you were eating tropical grasses such as maize, found only in the New World, or millet in Africa, neither of which was consumed in Europe" at the time, said Burton.
Oxygen isotopes provide information about water consumption and also can say something about geography as the isotopic composition of water changes in relation to latitude and proximity to the ocean.

Strontium is a chemical found in bedrock and that enters the body through the food chain as nutrients pass from bedrock to soil and water and, ultimately, to plants and animals. The strontium isotopes found in tooth enamel, the most stable and durable material in the human body, thus constitute an indelible signature of where someone lived as a child.

The strontium isotope analysis, Price notes, is not yet complete, as samples from the teeth of the presumed sailors remain to be matched with strontium profiles of Spanish soils. However, such matches could open an intriguing window to the personal identities of individuals buried in La Isabela.

"All of these sailors - their place of birth, their age - were recorded in Seville before they left on the second voyage," Price said. "One of the things we're hoping to do with the strontium is identify individuals."

The skeletons also exhibit evidence of scurvy, a common affliction of 15th century sailors who lacked vitamin C on their long voyages, as well as signs of malnutrition and physical stress. Chronicles of the voyage noted that most of the Europeans, including Columbus himself, fell sick shortly after landfall on Hispaniola, and many subsequently died, perhaps becoming the first to be buried in the La Isabela church graveyard.
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