August 24, 2009

O O O!

Although I cashed the PEO fellowship stipend for the semester, I'm not back to my diss full-time yet, not until the nanny starts September 3rd. But that doesn't mean that my work obligations will wait until then. I have a final grant report for Wenner-Gren due August 31st, and it requires me to discuss the results I've obtained using the money they gave me. I have yet to spend the remainder of the grant, though, as I'm waiting not-so-patiently on invoices from a colleague in England who is doing my oxygen isotope analysis. They had better get here in the next couple days, either by email or by fax, so that I can pay her and wrap up this phase of my research.

But this means that I did get nearly all of my O isotope results - 46 out of 60, to be exact. So far, they seem pretty interesting. After I figured out how to convert from one standard to another (δ18OVSMOW to δ18OVPDB for those interested), I compared my data to published data from ancient and modern Roman teeth. The range for locals was -4 to -6 ‰ in that publication. And my Romans ranged from... well, about -1.5 to -6.5 ‰. I did a quick histogram and found that the majority of people fell in the -3 to -6 range. But there is nearly a continuous distribution of people between -4 and -1.5. Are they immigrants or not? If I look at the isopleth map of rainfall in the Italian peninsula, there's nothing under -4 ‰. So several of my skeletons are from somewhere else... possibly northern Africa, as there is a published result of -2.9 ‰ plus or minus some error for Alexandria. This makes sense, as Egypt provided a lot of grain during the Empire and would have necessitated people traversing the trade route. What would be interesting to look at is whether or not these people were transmigrants: that is, people who engaged in cyclical or seasonal migration, or people who left a family at home and sent money or other resources back. But this is a question that's currently much larger than my dissertation, something I hope to work on in the future.

At any rate, I haven't had much time to crunch the O numbers or the δ13Cap numbers that came with it as a bonus. These latter numbers are also cool because they come from M1s and my C/N isotope data for diet that a colleague in Florida ran for me come from the femur. So I now have δ13Cap data from the first 3 years of life and the last 5 years of life for around 50 individuals. I'm not sure how useful this will be without the complementary N data, but I'll have to sort that out. So many numbers, so little nanny time.

Hopefully I can churn out these two book reviews in the next week and a half so that I can concentrate on doing dissertation work when the nanny starts. But it's hard for me to put aside all these glorious numbers in order to read papers about the archaeology of landscape in Italy and Roman Iron Age burials in France.

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