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Zinc as a Paleodietary Indicator: An Issue of Theoretical Validity in Bone-Chemistry Analysis

Joseph A. Ezzo
American Antiquity
Vol. 59, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 606-621
DOI: 10.2307/282336
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/282336
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Zinc as a Paleodietary Indicator: An Issue of Theoretical Validity in Bone-Chemistry Analysis
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Abstract

The use of the concentrations of zinc in archaeological bone as an indicator of past diets and/or health conditions has become widely accepted in bone-chemistry analysis, despite the fact that the theoretical validity for such an application has not been established. In this paper I present a series of critical variables-such as elemental metabolism, bone physiology, the relationship between dietary intakes of an element and its concentration in bone, trophic-level separation in the foodweb, and diagenetic variability-that must be addressed in the process of theoretical validation. I also discuss how studies that support the use of zinc as paleodietary indicator have generally focused on only one or perhaps two of these criteria. Until a sound model based on physiological principles is developed, the use of zinc as a paleodietary indicator remains unproven.

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