Evaluating Dietary Diversity among Andean Central Altiplano Early Camelid Pastoralists Using Stable Isotope Analysis

José M. Capriles, Melanie J. Miller, Jake R. Fox, David L. Browman, Cassady Yoder Urista

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Stable isotope studies have revolutionised our understanding of food webs, subsistence, mobility and their change through time. In the Andes, dietary stable isotopic studies have often focused on timing the adoption of maize as a staple food and identifying camelid pastoralism in selected valleys of the Pacific coast. Few studies have focused on highland societies and understanding pastoralist communities in particular, but the underlying assumption has been that camelid herders had essentially narrow and specialised diets. To evaluate this assertion, we analyzed dietary carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes of 27 human and 23 faunal specimens from nine archaeological sites located in the Central Altiplano of Bolivia supported by 27 radiocarbon dates. Our results suggest important diversity characterised both human and animal isotopic ecology between 1300 BCE and 1200 CE. The collected data also demonstrates that maize was not regularly consumed, suggesting interregional food exchange between this region of the Altiplano and its neighboring lowland inter-Andean valleys likely postdated 1100 CE. Consistent with reliance on cultivated crops such as chenopods and tubers and wild fauna including rodents, birds and fish, early camelid herders in the Andean Central Altiplano relied on a generalised form of pastoralism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-264
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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