Validating Isoscaping Methods: A Study of Oxygen, Strontium, and Sulfur
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Isotopic analysis can be a useful tool for forensic anthropologists when trying to identify unknown persons. Specifically, oxygen, strontium, carbon and nitrogen from teeth, bone, and hair have been used to evaluate and predict geographic location and diet of human remains. By using ten individuals from the Texas State Donated Skeletal Collection with known residential histories this study aims to provide insight on the precision and accuracy of this tool. Two samples were taken from each donor, one tooth and one portion of one cortical bone, in order to evaluate childhood and adult geolocations. Oxygen and strontium samples were prepared for each sample and the resulting values used to create a predictive isoscape. This map was then compared to the reported place of birth and end of life residency locations. Sulfur analysis was also performed on each cortical bone sample to determine if sulfur isotope ratios of human bone may be useful for geolocation purposes. Analysis of the oxygen isotope values were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, strontium ratios accurately predicted the location of 60% of the analyzed individuals. The ten donors were separated into inland and coastal populations, but no significant differences were found using sulfur analysis.