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Biogeochemical approaches to paleodietary analysis.

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 118:298 –300 (2002)
Book Reviews
BIOGEOCHEMICAL APPROACHES TO PALEODIETARY ANALYSIS. Edited by Stanley H. Ambrose and M. Anne
Katzenberg. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum
Publishers. 2000. 269 pp. ISBN 0-306-46457-8.
$75.00 (cloth).
This book is the long awaited product of the
Fourth Advanced Seminar on Paleodiet, which was
held at Banff, Alberta, in September 1994. Along the
way, some 40% of the participants withdrew from
the publication, so that the book contains only 10
chapters based on the 17 papers that were originally
presented at the conference. Two additional chapters have been added. Rather than the cutting edge
volume this might have been, it now seems somewhat dated (as is this review). The research discussed in several chapters has been substantially
published elsewhere, and few cite research more
recent than 1997. The chapters cover a broad range
of topics, including case studies (Chapters 1 and 2),
preservation and diagenesis (Chapters 4, 5, 7, and
9), environmental correlates (Chapters 3, 6, and 12),
and theoretical considerations (Chapters 8, 10, 11,
and 12). A short preface discusses the context of the
original conference. The volume might have benefited from a summary discussion highlighting future
directions for paleodietary research, although admittedly, the broad variety of themes covered in the
volume does not easily make for a forward-looking
statement. Indeed, the strength of this volume lies
in the diversity of research questions that are represented in its chapters. Thus, it will serve as a
useful survey of the broad range of issues that may
be addressed using bone chemical data.
Several chapters provide important, concise reviews of key issues in paleodietary analysis. These
include the chapter by J.H. Burton and T.D. Price on
strontium, which provides a clear and coherent review of the manner in which bone strontium: calcium ratios reflect dietary proportions, and highlights the erroneous inferences that misinformed
early applications of bone strontium as an indicator
of trophic level. Similarly, G.J. Van Klinken et al.
provide a thorough review of factors that affect ␦13C
values independent of the major differences in delta
values of different food sources. They also review
␦13C variations in Europe, where no C4 foods were
consumed; these issues are clearly pertinent for researchers working in the Americas and other world
areas. Likewise, S.H. Ambrose reviews factors that
affect ␦15N values in different ecosystems.
Chapters that discuss specific case studies include
that by M.A. Katzenberg et al., which considers the
effects of cooking practices on food isotope signatures in Upper Canada. N.J. van der Merwe et al.
©
2002 WILEY-LISS, INC.
reconstruct Preclassic Maya diet at Cuello, Belize.
This is the only large study of Maya diet from this
period. Their results underscore the discrepancy between the typical archaeological reconstructions of
Maya diet and the emerging picture of environmental variability in this region.
H. Bocherens attempts to identify poorly preserved Pleistocene faunal collagen by comparison
with collagen-apatite spacing and from ␦15N ratios
of modern fauna. While this is a useful approach, the
study suffers from the small size of the modern
comparative sample. Curiously, he makes no mention of more traditional measures of collagen and
apatite integrity, such as C/N ratios or infrared
spectra of apatite. J.A. Lee-Thorpe provides a thorough review of bone mineral diagenesis. She considers the effect of burial matrix ␦13C values on the
shifting isotope signals of browser and grazer remains in South African cave sites, concluding that
bone apatite has been significantly altered, but that
enamel apatite retains its biogenic signal for perhaps millions of years.
M.J. Schoeninger et al., discuss the relationship of
␦18O values in faunal bone mineral to ancient temperatures and humidity levels. Their data support a
model that scales body water parameters to body
mass, but they find a larger range of isotope values
than predicted by this model. The ␦18O of some
species that do not fit the model may be explained by
water conservation behavior (diurnal resting) peculiar to these species. Intratooth seasonal variation
and pre-post weaning differences among teeth sampled may also contribute to the variation in these
data. The results of this study highlight specific
considerations in the use of faunal ␦18O for paleoclimatic reconstruction.
S. Pfeiffer and T.L. Varney consider the predictive
value of bone histology as a tool to evaluate collagen
preservation in archaeological remains, finding that
collagen can show acceptable amino-acid profiles in
bone that is clearly histologically damaged. This
conclusion seems at odds with the results presented
in their Table 7.3, clearly showing better collagen
integrity in the middle cortical layer for most samples. G. Grupe et al. examine the implications of
microbial degradation on bone collagen isotope ratios. By growing soil bacteria on marten bones, they
observe a shift to lighter collagen ␦13C due to selective use of certain amino acids by the microbes, and
document similar amino-acid profiles in archaeological bones that show histological evidence of microbial damage. They suggest that ␦13C might be corrected for a known depletion of specific amino acids.
Unfortunately, the reference for a follow-up study to
this important work, which is cited in a note added
in proof, is not provided in the chapter bibliography.
BOOK REVIEWS
299
In a theoretical chapter, H.P. Schwarcz examines
the biochemical pathways of carbon metabolism in
the body, and their implications for isotope fractionation among body tissues. He concludes that, together, routing of essential amino acids from dietary
protein, and the partial blocking of carbon from lipids that would be used in the synthesis of nonessential amino acids, may account for the apparent routing of proteins toward collagen.
R.E.M. Hedges and G.J. van Klinken elaborate a
“Dietary Isotopic Fractionation Function” to model
the relationship between the isotopic composition of
dietary components and resultant body tissues, and
apply their approach to experimental data on rats
obtained from earlier experiments. This is a useful
conceptual approach to understanding the partitioning of dietary influxes and tissue fractionation. Unfortunately, its readability is hindered by the frequent reference to “section” numbers that are not
included in the subtitles of the chapter (e.g., on page
218; “in Section 5.2 we outline . . .”). Presumably the
subtitles were changed at some point in the editorial
process, but the text was not modified to match.
In the final chapter, S.H. Ambrose provides interesting experimental data on the influence of different levels of dietary protein and of heat stress on
nitrogen isotope ratios in rats. Although diets with
different levels of protein showed visible effects on
growth, nitrogen isotope ratios did not show the
increase predicted by the protein deprivation hypothesis, which predicts elevation of ␦15N due to
metabolism of body tissues. Similarly, he observes
no systematic ␦15N difference in rats raised at different ambient temperatures. Both results raise the
possibility that rat physiology is not an appropriate
model for testing patterns of ␦15N variation in nature; however, additional research along these lines
is clearly warranted.
I did find a number of printing errors, mostly in
figure and table legends (p. 119, Fig. 6.6), and Figure
7.2 was simply omitted from my copy, although the
legend was printed. Otherwise, the quality of the
volume is high in all regards. This volume is an
important contribution to the growing body of paleodiet literature. It will be a handy addition to the
library of those interested in paleodietary reconstruction.
LORI E. WRIGHT
Department of Anthropology
Texas A & M University
College Station, Texas
DIFFERENT SEASONS: BIOLOGICAL AGING AMONG MENNONITES OF THE MIDWESTERN UNITED STATES. Edited by
Michael H. Crawford. Lawrence, KS: University of
Kansas Press. 2000. 178 pp. ISBN 0-938332-21-X.
$25.00 (paper).
tive dimension to a study of longevity in the Caucasus populations reputedly containing unusually
large numbers of centenarians. Scrutiny of the remarkable longevity of these populations reveals that
it is based on exaggerated claims, leaving the Mennonite research as the principal product of the
project. The first chapter by M.H. Crawford reviews
the current status of aging research. The following
three chapters on “Mennonite History” (L. Rogers
and R. Rogers), “Historical Demography” (J.C.
Stevenson and P.M. Everson), and “Genetic Structure” (M.H. Crawford) provide the historical, demographic, and genetic context for the remaining chapters. The historical research dispels the commonly
held stereotype that Mennonite populations have
homogeneous origins. Usually considered to be of
Dutch origin, the Prussian Mennonites came into
being after 1539 as an amalgam of various Germanspeaking and Moravian populations.
Many papers dealing with the topics covered in this
volume were published in the 1980s. Some updating
has taken place, but on the whole references predate
1990. A sampling of chapters yielded about 14% of
the references dating to 1990 or later. The chapters cover a broad range of topics, including phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) tasting (T. Koertvelyessy),
anthropometry (M.H. Crawford, D. Demarchi, M. Ellard, and S. Pupala), quantitative genetics of neuromotor performance (E.J. Devor), levels of serum bio-
Religious isolates, particularly Anabaptist sects
such as the Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites,
have long been considered ideally suited for genetic
research. Their genetic isolation and documented
history and genealogy are important components of
their research value. For aging research, their austere life style adds another advantage. Eschewing
tobacco and alcohol use and practicing a traditionally active life style borne of agricultural pursuits
and a strong work ethic isolate them from agents
that accelerate the aging process in the general population. These were some of the considerations that
led to the selection of Mennonite communities in
Kansas and Nebraska.
This monograph presents results from a long-term
project, begun in 1979, designed to assess aging and
disentangle the genetic and environmental components that contribute to it. The volume contains a
preface and 13 chapters. Nearly all the results reported here were previously published in journals,
so this volume is more in the spirit of collecting it all
in one place. In the preface, M.H. Crawford explains
that the project’s origin was to provide a compara-
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.10107
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.
com).
300
BOOK REVIEWS
chemical markers (L. Martin and M.H. Crawford), coronary heart disease and renal function (R.
Duggirala, R. Arya, J. Blangero, and M.H. Crawford), biological age (M. Utley and M.H. Crawford),
nutrition, obesity, and mortality (R. Arya, G. Singh,
M.J. Mosher, J.D. Haas, and M.H. Crawford), and
type A/B behavior and lipid profiles (R. Duggirala,
W. Bowerman, and M.H. Crawford). To me, the
heart of the matter addressed in this volume is the
attempt to develop criteria for biological age, something to serve the purpose that skeletal age serves
during the preadult years. Since death is the inevitable outcome of aging, people who age faster biologically should die earlier than those who age more
slowly. Chronological age is the best predictor of
death, but several physiological variables improve
the model; most importantly, high blood urea nitrogen levels significantly increase the probability of
death.
I undertook this review partly out of curiosity.
Having grown up in a related community, I thought
I might gain some insight into my own prospects for
a long and presumably useful life. I was disappointed in this personal quest for my longevity prospects; Mennonite mortality is not noticeably different from that of Americans in general. This is in part
because, like Americans generally, Mennonites have
BOOK RECEIVED
Condemi S (2001) Les Néandertaliens de La Chaise.
Paris: Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques. 178 pp. €38.00 (paper).
Delson E, Terranova CJ, Jungers W, Sargis EJ, Jablonski NG, and Dechow PC (2000) Body Mass in
Cercopithecidae (Primates, Mammalia): Estimation
and Scaling in Extinct and Extant Taxa. Anthropological Papers, Number 83. New York: American Museum of Natural History. 159 pp. $16.50 (paper).
become more sedentary as mechanization takes over
tasks formerly done by hand, but their caloric intake
remains high, and in fact, higher than the American
average. Mennonites have proven themselves no
wiser than Americans generally in making life style
choices that promote health and longevity.
As mentioned, most of what is in this volume can
be found in the journal literature. What you get for
your modest investment is all of it in one place.
Having it all together emphasizes the multidisciplinary and collaborative nature of this research.
The project itself, now moving into its third decade,
has experienced some aging. But it has kept pace
with genetic and methodological advances that have
emerged over its lifetime. The work shows what can
be accomplished with proper research design and
organization. The project is a model of aging research (no double entendre intended).
RICHARD L. JANTZ
Department of Anthropology
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20018
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.
com).
Domett KM (2001) Health in Late Prehistoric Thailand.
Oxford, UK: Archaeopress. 180 pp. £30.00 (paper).
Konner M (2002) The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit. New York: Times
Books/Henry Holt and Co. 540 pp. $35.00 (cloth).
Plavcan JM, Kay RF, Jungers WL, and van Schaik CP
(eds.) (2002) Reconstructing Behavior in the Primate
Fossil Record. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum
Publishers. 437 pp. $125.00 (cloth).
Stanford CB (1998) Chimpanzee and Red Colobus: The
Ecology of Predator and Prey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 296 pp. $20.00 (paper).
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