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Goehring, Andrea; Carnap-Bornheim, Claus von; Hilberg, Volker; Mayr, Christoph and Grupe, Gisela (2019): Diet and species-specific oxygen isotope relationship and isotope spacing between structural carbonate and phosphate in archaeological mammalian bones. In: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Vol. 11, No. 6: pp. 2467-2487

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Stable oxygen isotopes of bone structural carbonate (O-18(carbonate)) and phosphate (O-18(phosphate)) are frequently used for paleoclimatological and paleoenvironmental studies. In several studies, the more conveniently measureable O-18(carbonate) values are measured, and O-18(phosphate) values are approximated according to published regressions. We studied a variety of individuals (n=101) of different wild and domesticated mammal species (n=19) from the Viking Haithabu and medieval Schleswig sites in Northern Germany and demonstrated that a generalized relationship between O-18(carbonate) and O-18(phosphate) with a fixed value for oxygen isotope spacing (O-18) is potentially error-prone. The O-18 values of our data set differ considerably from the commonly applied, fixed value of about 9 parts per thousand with values ranging from 3.8 to 8.1 parts per thousand (=6.1 parts per thousand +/- 0.9 parts per thousand). Statistically significant differences in the O-18 values and marked differences in linear models established for the relationship between O-18(carbonate) and O-18(phosphate) are related to species-specific diet and physiology. Therefore, such species-specific particularities must not be neglected. We conclude that this variability does no longer permit an approximation of oxygen isotope values of bone phosphate from carbonate, because O-18(phosphate) values approximated in such a way are highly error-prone. Parallel analyses of both O-18(carbonate) and O-18(phosphate) values are therefore indispensable.

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