Variability in stable isotope ratios in two Late-Final Jomon communities in the Tokai coastal region and its relationship with sex and ritual tooth ablation

Soichiro Kusaka, Takeyuki Ikarashi, Fujio Hyodo, Takakazu Yumoto, Kazumichi Katayama

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We analyzed stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in a sample of human and nonhuman mammal bones excavated from the Yoshigo and Inariyama shell mounds of the Late-Final Jomon periods in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, with a view to determining individual dietary differences. To investigate possible reasons for the dietary variations identified, we related isotope ratios to sex and tooth ablation patterns. At both sites, large intra-site variations in δ13C and δ15N values were found, compared with other Jomon populations previously studied, suggesting higher than usual levels of dietary variability, and at both sites there was a positive correlation between δ13C and δ15N values. The diet of the Jomon people at both these sites had two main protein sources: marine (marine finfish and shellfish) and terrestrial (C3 plants and terrestrial mammals) protein. The intra-site variability is probably explained by consumption of these resources in different proportions. Analysis of the Yoshigo shell mound data indicated that sex is one of the factors determining dietary difference. It was also found that individual differences in diet in Yoshigo males are greater than in females. This pattern was repeated in the Inariyama shell mound data. Dietary differences were found to be related to ritual tooth ablation characteristics, particularly in males. At Inariyama, type 4I ritual tooth ablation was associated with comparatively greater dependency on terrestrial resources, while type 2C tooth ablation was associated with greater dependency on marine resources. This may indicate that type 4I males engaged predominantly in hunting, and type 2C males in fishing, as a means of food acquisition. These results are possibly the earliest evidence of occupational differentiation in the Jomon people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-181
Number of pages11
JournalAnthropological Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes



  • Diet
  • Jomon period
  • Prehistoric subsistence
  • Ritual tooth ablation
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology

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