Chris Stantis

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Supervisors: Hallie Buckley, Rebecca Kinaston

Thesis title: Diet and movement in prehistoric Tonga and Fiji

Thesis synopsis:

The human processes of food production and migration are deeply intertwined. Population increase and subsequent dispersion into new territories are common consequences of increased food production, and movement into new lands can lead to opportunities for access to (and control over) new food resources. These processes are of utmost importance in the parts of the Pacific where generally ecologically sparse islands predicated the need for efficient colonizing adaptations in order for settlements to thrive.

My research examines movement and diet of individuals from prehistoric burial sites using multi-isotopic analyses (δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S) and oral indicators of diet (e.g. caries, periodontal disease, dental wear). Isotopic analysis of tooth enamel (87Sr/86Sr) can determine the location where an individual spent their childhood and the large range of geological isotopic variation in the Pacific Islands grants an enormous opportunity to identify non-local individuals in a burial assemblage.
The two burial sites I am examining are the ‘Atele burial mounds from Tongatapu, Tonga (500 – 200 calBP) and the Bourewa burials from Viti Levu, Fiji (750 – 0 calBP). I explore differences between the two assemblages using a biocultural approach. These two islands are vastly different in size, vulnerability to climatic shifts, and resource availability, which doubtlessly affected subsistence strategies and decisions to move.