The case of the buried caribou tooth

Chemistry research on caribou teeth may expand Alaska’s archaeological record.

At University of Alaska Anchorage, two students are on an interdisciplinary quest to unlock the anthropological and archaeological importance of caribou teeth.

Yes, caribou teeth.

Anthropology student Nathan Harmston is merging ancient migrations with modern science in his graduate research project. Much like annual tree rings, he said, caribou teeth add a layer each day, acting like a biologic calendar during the tooth’s growth. These layers absorb nitrogen, carbon and strontium isotopes from the environment, showing not just where an animal grazed, but when. Analyzing these stable isotopes in growth lines can turn a tooth into a tracking collar from the past, opening up a world of lost information. Read more.

Tags: Anthropology Archaeology carbon isotopes nitrogen isotopes strontium isotopes