The content in this collection is available only to Washington University in St. Louis users per the request of the Office of Undergraduate Research. If you have questions, please contact .


You Are What You Eat: A Technique for Isotopic Analysis of Archaeological Amino Acids

Document Type

Feature Article

Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2007

Publication Title

Washington University Undergraduate Research Digest: WUURD 2(2)


Faculty Mentor: James O. McCullagh

Stable isotope analysis of archaeological remains offers a wealth of information about the diets of ancient peoples. Many studies have shown that both stable isotope and radiocarbon measurements of individual amino acids offer greater insight than does measurement of bulk protein alone. Therefore a particular interest exists in a process that can separate amino acids in proteins, particularly human bone collagen, while maintaining the integrity of the isotopic signal. Previous methods have either undesirably used organic reagents or have failed to separate several interesting amino acids. This paper presents the development of a chromatography method that achieves separation of 15 amino acids in a mock collagen sample, without introducing any outside carbon. The method has also been success- fully tested on an archaeological sample. Further development of this method will allow for more routine and accurate isotopic measure- ments of individual amino acids in archaeological collagen samples, which could greatly expand the data available for reconstructing pale- odiets. Results for hair protein as an isotopic indicator of migration are also presented.

From the Washington University Undergraduate Research Digest: WUURD, Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2007. Published by the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Henry Biggs, Director of Undergraduate Research and Associate Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences; Joy Zalis Kiefer, Undergraduate Research Coordinator, Editor, and Assistant Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences; Kristin Sobotka, Co-editor.


Copyright: All work is copyrighted by the authors and permission to use this work must be granted. The Office of Undergraduate Research can assist in contacting an author.

This document is currently not available here.