Scale of human mobility in northwestern Patagonia: An approach based on regional geology and strontium isotopes in human remains

Resumen:
Strontium isotopes facilitate the study of human paleogeography and have widened the scope of archaeological enquiries on mobility. We present an approach based on strontium isotopes (Sr-87/Sr-86) to study the mobility of hunter-gatherer societies from northwestern Patagonia (Neuquen, Argentina). The analysis is developed on the basis of a macro-regional geological framework that guides the sampling and interpretation of results. We also present results for fauna to begin building a landscape of bioavailable strontium to be utilized in the interpretation of results from human samples. These first results conform to general expectations and show the most radiogenic Sr-87/Sr-86 values for the oldest geological provinces, while low values are recorded for recent substrates. Additionally, we provide results for human samples from archaeological sites spanning the last 4000 years, a period during which a number of important socio-demographic changes occurred. The results in human samples indicate overall isotopic fidelity to the values recorded in the local geology, suggesting a relatively restricted spatial scale of mobility during the late Holocene. This discussion is situated in a biogeographic research framework assessing topographic variation and landscape seasonality, and contributes toward understanding the movements of people, flow of material objects, and circulation of information in the Patagonian Andes.

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