The fish of Lake Titicaca: implications for archaeology and changing ecology through stable isotope analysis

Melanie J. Miller, José M. Capriles, Christine A. Hastorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Research on past human diets in the southern Lake Titicaca Basin has directed us to investigate the carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes of an important dietary element, fish. By completing a range of analyses on modern and archaeological fish remains, we contribute to two related issues regarding the application of stable isotope analysis of archaeological fish remains and in turn their place within human diet. The first issue is the potential carbon and nitrogen isotope values of prehistoric fish (and how these would impact human dietary isotopic data), and the second is the observed changes in the fish isotopes through time. Out of this work we provide quantitative isotope relationships between fish tissues with and without lipid extraction, and a qualitative analysis of the isotopic relationships between fish tissues, allowing archaeologists to understand these relationships and how these values can be applied in future research. We test a mathematical lipid normalization equation to examine whether future researchers will need to perform lipid extraction procedures for Lake Titicaca fish. We also analyze a number of aquatic plants to better understand the range of isotopic signatures of the Lake Titicaca ecosystem. We use these data to better understand prehistoric human diet and the role that fish may have played in the past as well as potential changes in local lake ecology through time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-327
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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