T. Douglas Price

University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States

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Publications (91)133.7 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Human sacrifice in ancient Mesoamerica was strongly linked with ritual behaviour and mythical beliefs. Yet it is rarely possible to explain the mythical associations of archaeological deposits derived from human sacrifice. In this article, we integrate archaeological, taphonomic and isotopic analysis to reconstruct the ritual behaviour that resulted in the formation of a partially cremated primary burial at the Lowland Maya city of Tikal. Taphonomic reconstruction reveals details about the form of death and combustion of two males, while isotopic studies hint at their probable geographic origin. To explain this ritual, we assess the relevance of widespread Mesoamerican mythical beliefs about the origin of the sun and the moon, and discuss the theoretical and methodological issues involved in this comparison. The burial's association with an E-Group compound makes it significant for the interpretation of these specialized architectural arrangements in southern Mesoamerica. It also pertains to a critical period in Tikal's history, marked by intensified cultural and political interaction with the highland Mexican city of Teotihuacan, manifest in this burial by the presence of imported green obsidian spear points. We propose that this unique context resulted from a sacrificial reenactment of the mythological birth of the sun and the moon.
    Cambridge Archaeological Journal 02/2015; 25(01). DOI:10.1017/S0959774314000638
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    ABSTRACT: Strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes are measured in human tooth enamel from 32 human burials in structural complex 10J-45 at the Classic Maya site of Copan in western Honduras. These results are compared with similar information from the Copan Acropolis, common graves throughout the site, and baseline information from the surrounding region and the Maya area in general. More than one-third of the burials are identified as non-local based on strontium and oxygen isotope ratios. These non-local individuals came from a variety of different places. Two of these persons appear to be dynastic rulers or highly placed nobles in Copan society. The high density of non-locals and the location of the burials suggest this area may have been an enclave of foreign Maya at the site. The presence of non-local rulers in both this area and the Acropolis supports the concept of “stranger kings” in the Maya realm.
    Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 12/2014; 36:32–47. DOI:10.1016/j.jaa.2014.02.003 · 2.32 Impact Factor
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    Elise Naumann, T Douglas Price, Michael P Richards
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    ABSTRACT: Human remains representing 33 individuals buried along the coast in northern Norway were analyzed for diet composition using collagen stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. Where possible, both teeth and bone were included to investigate whether there were dietary changes from childhood to adulthood. A general shift was documented from the Merovingian Age 550-800 AD to the Viking Age AD 800-1050 (VA), with a heavier reliance on marine diet in the VA. Dietary life history data show that 15 individuals changed their diets through life with 11 of these having consumed more marine foods in the later years of life. In combination with (87) Sr/(86) Sr data, it is argued that at least six individuals possibly originated from inland areas and then moved to the coastal region where they were eventually interred. The trend is considered in relation to the increasing expansion of the marine fishing industry at this time, and it is suggested that results from isotope analyses reflect the expanding production and export of stockfish in this region. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 11/2014; 155(3). DOI:10.1002/ajpa.22551 · 2.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the peopling of the Americas remains an important and challenging question. Here, we present 14C dates, and morphological, isotopic and genomic sequence data from two human skulls from the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, part of one of the indigenous groups known as ‘Botocudos’. We find that their genomic ancestry is Polynesian, with no detectable Native American component. Radiocarbon analysis of the skulls shows that the individuals had died prior to the beginning of the 19th century. Our findings could either represent genomic evidence of Polynesians reaching South America during their Pacific expansion, or European-mediated transport.
    Current Biology 10/2014; 24(21). DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.078 · 9.92 Impact Factor
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    H. Schroeder, J. B. Haviser, T. D. Price
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    ABSTRACT: Dental modification was widely practiced in sub-Saharan Africa as a form of cultural expression, and during the era of the transatlantic slave trade, it was regularly identified in enslaved Africans who were transported to the Americas. Here, we report three new cases of African types of dental modification from the Caribbean island of Saint Martin that were recently encountered during construction activities in the Zoutsteeg area of Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch half of the island. The artifacts associated with the burials indicate that they date to the late 17th century, prior to the foundation of the town of Philipsburg in 1735. The dental evidence further suggests that the three individuals were born in Africa, as opposed to the Americas. This could be confirmed by tooth enamel strontium isotope measurements which yielded values that are inconsistent with an origin in the Caribbean but consistent with an origin in Africa. Unfortunately, neither the dental patterns nor the strontium isotope values allow us to determine their specific origins in Africa. However, both the methods used to modify the teeth and the isotope ratios suggest that the ‘Zoutsteeg Three’ originated in different parts of Africa. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 08/2014; DOI:10.1002/oa.2253 · 0.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dental enamel is currently of high informative value in studies concerning childhood origin and human mobility because the strontium isotope ratio in human dental enamel is indicative of geographical origin. However, many prehistoric burials involve cremation and although strontium retains its original biological isotopic composition, even when exposed to very high temperatures, intact dental enamel is rarely preserved in cremated or burned human remains. When preserved, fragments of dental enamel may be difficult to recognize and identify. Finding a substitute material for strontium isotope analysis of burned human remains, reflecting childhood values, is hence of high priority. This is the first study comparing strontium isotope ratios from cremated and non-cremated petrous portions with enamel as indicator for childhood origin. We show how strontium isotope ratios in the otic capsule of the petrous portion of the inner ear are highly correlated with strontium isotope ratios in dental enamel from the same individual, whether inhumed or cremated. This implies that strontium isotope ratios in the petrous bone, which practically always survives cremation, are indicative of childhood origin for human skeletal remains. Hence, the petrous bone is ideal as a substitute material for strontium isotope analysis of burned human remains.
    PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e101603. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0101603 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • Ancient Mesoamerica 01/2014; 25(01):221-238. DOI:10.1017/S0956536114000133
  • Joachim Wahl, T Douglas Price
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    ABSTRACT: The cemetery of Neckarsulm in southwestern Germany was discovered in 2001 and contained the inhumation graves of 50 individuals in 32 graves. The cemetery was in use for about 50 years during the Late Bronze Age (Urnfield culture, Hallstatt A1 period). The individuals who could confidently be identified were almost exclusively adult males. The majority of the skeletal remains exhibit specialized facets that most likely resulting from horseback riding. Several characteristics make this cemetery very unusual: The inhumations in contrast to normal cremation in this time period, the large number of multiple burials, the uniform sex and age of the deceased. There is no information concerning the cause of death of the individuals from the cemetery. Isotopic analysis was used for diet and mobility investigation. Diet for these individuals was relatively homogeneous and included both terrestrial and freshwater species. Tooth enamel from 37 individuals was analysed for strontium and oxygen isotopes. Almost one-third of the individuals in the sample exhibited non-local strontium isotope ratios and likely came from different areas in southwest Germany.
    Anthropologischer Anzeiger 11/2013; 70(3):289-307. DOI:10.1127/0003-5548/2013/0334 · 0.54 Impact Factor
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    06/2013; 1(2):93-112. DOI:10.1080/21662282.2013.798903
  • J. Mark Kenoyer, T. Douglas Price, James H. Burton
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    ABSTRACT: Exchange and interaction between early state-level societies in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley during the 3rd millennium BC has been documented for some time. The study of this interaction has been dominated by the analysis of artifacts such as carnelian beads and marine shell, along with limited textual evidence. With the aid of strontium, carbon, and oxygen isotopes, it is now possible to develop more direct means for determining the presence of non-local people in both regions. This preliminary study of tooth enamel from individuals buried at Harappa and at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, indicates that it should be feasible to identify Harappans in Mesopotamia. It is also possible to examine the mobility of individuals from communities within the greater Indus Valley region.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 05/2013; 40(5):2286–2297. DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2012.12.040 · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    Dusan Boric, T Douglas Price
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    ABSTRACT: Questions about how farming and the Neolithic way of life spread across Europe have been hotly debated topics in archaeology for decades. For a very long time, two models have dominated the discussion: migrations of farming groups from southwestern Asia versus diffusion of domesticates and new ideas through the existing networks of local forager populations. New strontium isotope data from the Danube Gorges in the north-central Balkans, an area characterized by a rich burial record spanning the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, show a significant increase in nonlocal individuals from ∼6200 calibrated B.C., with several waves of migrants into this region. These results are further enhanced by dietary evidence based on carbon and nitrogen isotopes and an increasingly high chronological resolution obtained on a large sample of directly dated individuals. This dataset provides robust evidence for a brief period of coexistence between indigenous groups and early farmers before farming communities absorbed the foragers completely in the first half of the sixth millennium B.C.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2013; 110(9):3298-303. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1211474110 · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • K.-G. Sjögren, T. Douglas Price
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    ABSTRACT: We report here the results of strontium, oxygen and carbon isotope analysis of teeth from domestic animals at two Neolithic settlement sites in Falbygden, Sweden. The main result is the high mobility of domestic animals, particularly of cattle but also of sheep. More than half of the analysed cattle teeth show strontium isotope signals indicating that they were raised in an area of Precambrian rock, outside the sedimentary Cambro-Silurian rocks found in Falbygden. This is in marked contrast to pigs, which were mostly local to Falbygden. The mobility of cattle is much higher than that of humans, for which the frequency of immigrants is about 25%.We suggest that West Sweden in the Neolithic was not a local but a regional economy, where not only prestige items and humans were circulating but also basic components of subsistence. Such a regional economy would have drawn together the megalithic-building population in Falbygden with its non-megalithic neighbours. In addition, it seems that cattle had a particular place in the Neolithic symbolic system, beyond their economic and practical value.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 01/2013; 40(1):690–704. DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2012.08.001 · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The important Viking Age and early Medieval site of Sebbersund in northern Jutland, Denmark, contains a large churchyard from the 11th–12th century AD. Sebbersund was an important trading center in this period and the location of one of the first churches in Denmark, perhaps an entry point for the introduction of Christianity to the country. Excavations have exposed almost 500 graves of an estimated 700 individuals in the cemetery. Here we report on the analysis of strontium isotopes in human tooth enamel from burials in the cemetery as a signal of place of birth. Some 19 samples have been measured and at least three non-local outliers identified. Futhermore, six archaeological fauna samples had been analyzed in order to define the local bioavailable strontium isotope baseline range and these values were compared to the more general bioavailable baseline range values for Denmark. The burials are evaluated in light of the available archaeological, chronological, anthropological, and isotopic information.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 12/2012; 39(12):3714-3720. DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2012.06.015 · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In AD 2000, construction activities in the central plaza of the city of Campeche, Mexico, led to the discovery of an early colonial church and an associated burial ground dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD. During the subsequent rescue excavations, the remains of at least 180 individuals were unearthed from the churchyard. We have concluded a series of isotopic studies of these remains to obtain information on diet, status, place of origin, and date of burial. This work involves the application of both light and heavy isotope analyses to both tooth enamel and human bone. Carbon and oxygen isotope ratios were measured in tooth enamel and bone. Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios were measured on bone collagen. Strontium and lead isotopes were measured in tooth enamel, and the ratios were compared to a large database for the Maya region. Radiocarbon dates were obtained for 10 of the skeletons to evaluate the date of burial and the period of use of the cemetery. The results of our study, interpreted jointly with mortuary information and conventional skeletal examination, provide detailed information on the overall burial population, a sort of collective life history of the deceased individuals. In the context of the historical background, new insights on living conditions, mobility, and diet of the founding generations in the colonial New World are obtained. A new and direct appreciation on life and death in an early multiethnic colonial Spanish town, including its historically invisible sectors—children, women, servants, and slaves—becomes possible.
    Current Anthropology 08/2012; 53(4):396-433. DOI:10.1086/666492 · 2.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: During the early medieval period in Ireland, Dublin was established as the largest Viking settlement on the island in the ninth century AD. A previous biodistance study has suggested that the population of the town consisted of a polyethnic amalgam of immigrant and indigenous. In this study, we use biogeochemistry to investigate paleomobility and paleodiet in archaeological human remains from the ninth to eleventh century levels at the sites at Fishamble Street II (National Museum of Ireland excavation number E172), Fishamble Street III (E190) and John’s Lane (E173), as well as twelfth-century remains from Wood Quay (E132). Through radiogenic strontium isotope, stable oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen isotope, and elemental concentration analyses, we investigate the origins of the individuals who lived and died in early and late Viking Dublin. Mean archaeological human enamel and bone isotope values from Dublin are 87Sr/86Sr = 0.70975 ± 0.00139 (2σ, n = 22), δ13Ccarbonate(V-PDB) = −14.8‰ ± 0.8‰ (1σ, n = 12), and δ18Ocarbonate(V-PDB) = −7.2‰ ± 1.0‰ (1σ, n = 12). Archaeological human bone samples exhibit mean δ13Ccollagen(V-PDB) = −20.8‰ ± 0.5‰ (1σ, n = 12) and mean δ15Ncollagen(AIR) = +10.0‰ ± 1.7‰ (1σ, n = 12). Comparing these data with archaeological faunal data from Dublin and published data from northern Europe, we argue that there are no clear immigrants from other parts of the North Atlantic, although there is one clear outlier in both origins and diet. Overall, the relative homogeneity in both paleomobility and paleodiet may support models of acculturation in Viking Dublin, rather than a high number of first-generation immigrants or continued migration from Scandinavia.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 02/2012; 39(2). DOI:10.1016/j.jas.2011.09.014 · 2.14 Impact Factor
  • Migrations in Prehistory and Early History. Stable Isotopes and Population Genetics. Berlin Studies of the Ancient World, Edited by Wolfram Schier, Joachim Burger, Elke Kaiser, 01/2012: chapter Strontium isotopes in faunal remains. Evidence of the strategies for land use at the Iron Age site Eberdingen-Hochdorf (Baden-Württemberg, Germany): pages 269-292; De Gruyter.
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    Journal of Archaeological Science 01/2012; 39(2):308-320. · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The use of isotopes in tooth enamel for investigating place of origin for archaeological human remains is becoming common practice. Too often, however, only a few samples are analyzed and little work is done to establish baseline information. An argument for large samples is made in the discussion here, pointing to the presence of substantial variation in human populations due to both migration and dietary differences. The need to determine local isotope ratios is highlighted by the differences that may exist between naturally available isotope ratios in rock, sediments, and surface water and bioavailable isotope ratios found in living and fossil organisms. The use of multi-isotope approaches is also strongly encouraged. Two examples demonstrate the importance of these recommendations. In the first example described in this study, carbon isotopes in both enamel and collagen provide important ancillary information. The arrival of Spanish and African settlers in Campeche, Mexico in the 16th century AD left new isotopic and dietary signals in the cemeteries of the early colonial town. The colonization of Iceland in the 9th century AD brought settlers from northern Europe to the unoccupied islands of the North Atlantic. Dramatic isotopic contrasts in this region enhance our ability to understand population variation. These projects were largely successful because of large sample size, good baseline data, and the use of more than one isotopic system.
    Population dynamics in prehistory and early history. New Approaches by Using Stable Isotopes and Genetics, Edited by Elke Kaiser, Joachim Burger, Wolfram Schier, 01/2012: chapter Isotopes and mobility: Case studies with large samples: pages 319-329; De Gruyter.
  • T. Douglas Price, Ofer Bar-Yosef
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    ABSTRACT: This introduction to the symposium and to this issue of Current Anthropology attempts to provide some sense of the topic, the meeting itself, the participants, and some of the initial results. Our symposium brought together a diverse international group of archaeological scientists to consider a topic of common interest and substantial anthropological import—the origins of agriculture. The group included individuals working in most of the places where farming began. This issue is organized by chronology and geography. Our goal was to consider the most recent data and ideas from these different regions in order to examine larger questions of congruity and disparity among the groups of first farmers. There is much new information from a number of important areas, particularly Asia. Following a review of the history of investigation of agricultural origins, this introduction summarizes the results of the conference. There are at least 10 different places around the world where agriculture was independently developed, and the antiquity of domestication is being pushed back in time with new discoveries. Our symposium has emphasized the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to such large questions in order to assemble as much information as possible. We anticipate that the results and consequences of this symposium will have long-term ripple effects in anthropology and archaeology.
    Current Anthropology 10/2011; 52. DOI:10.1086/659964 · 2.93 Impact Factor
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    Karin Margarita Frei, T. Douglas Price
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    ABSTRACT: The principles behind the strontium isotopic system are an important tool for archaeologists tracing human migration and patterns of movement in prehistory. However, there are several scientific challenges of analytical nature, as well as those which relate to unknown parameters inherent to the interpretation of such data. One prerequisite is the knowledge of the range of strontium isotopic ratios that best characterize the bioavailable fractions of a particular area of interest. The study reported here attempts to establish a baseline for strontium isotope signatures valuable for Denmark (excluding the island of Bornholm) and particularly for the use in archaeological investigations. We present strontium isotope ratios of bones and teeth from modern mice contained in owl pellets, of snail shells, and of archaeological fauna samples. We compare these ratios with median strontium isotope signatures characterizing human enamel populations from archaeological sites within Denmark. The fauna samples reported here range from 87Sr/86Sr = 0.70717 to 0.71185 with an average of 0.70919, and human enamel defines a range from 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7086 to 0.7110 with an average of 0.7098. In both datasets, we observe a small difference between the baseline values for the western (Jutland) and eastern (Funen, Zealand, and the southern islands) parts of Denmark. We therefore propose two slightly different baseline ranges with a partial overlap for the isotopic signatures of bioavailable strontium fractions within Denmark, namely a range of 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7078–0.7098 for the western area and a range of 87Sr/86Sr = 0.7089–0.7108 for the eastern parts.
    Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 06/2011; 4(2). DOI:10.1007/s12520-011-0087-7 · 1.06 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
133.70 Total Impact Points


  • 1970–2014
    • University of Wisconsin–Madison
      • Department of Anthropology
      Madison, Wisconsin, United States
  • 2009
    • University of Aberdeen
      • Department of Archaeology
      Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • 2006
    • The Reykjavik Academy
      Reikiavik, Capital Region, Iceland