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Stable and Radiogenic Isotope Analysis of Faunal Remains from a Western Iowa Oneota Complex Site: An Investigation of Diet and Mobility Variation in the Late Prehistoric Period of the Upper Midwest

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Abstract

This study provides evidence of the value of using isotopic data from faunal remains to understand human diet and mobility patterns when human remains are not available for examination. In this research, bone apatite, bone collagen, and enamel apatite from fauna recovered from recent excavations of the Dixon site (13WD8), an Oneota complex site (AD 1300-1400) in western Iowa, were analyzed for δ 13 C, δ 15 N, δ 18 O, and 87 Sr/ 86 Sr values. The goals of this study were to gather information about human and animal diet and mobility and faunal procurement strategies of humans in the late prehistoric period of upper midwestern North America and to contribute to the growing literature using domesticated dogs as surrogates for humans in isotopic studies of dietary patterns. The results of this study find that the people occupying the Dixon site were subsisting on agricultural products, including maize, in conjunction with the gathered wild resources and hunted fauna, which included both large and small local game. While the Oneota complex is thought to be associated with some amount of seasonal migration, there is no evidence of these movements offered via this study's data nor is there strong evidence of long-distance hunting. Domesticated canids were an important part of the Dixon settlement and were fed human foodstuffs and scraps, including maize. At times, these canids were also a source of food. As a substitute for analyses of human remains, this study uses the canine surrogacy approach (CSA) and argues that the canid data would be similar to the human data from the Dixon settlement. A Bayesian stable-isotope mixing model (MixSiar) was used to quantitatively interpret the stable-isotope values of the Dixon canids, and it suggests that bison hunting was a specialization of the human population occupying the Dixon site.
MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
2021, VOL. 46, NO. 3, xxx–xxx
Stable and Radiogenic Isotope Analysis of Faunal
Remains from a Western Iowa Oneota Complex Site:
An Investigation of Diet and Mobility Variation in the
Late Prehistoric Period of the Upper Midwest
Anna J. Waterman,a Bryan S. Kendall,b Chérie E. Haury-Artz,b
Andrew D. Somerville,c and David W. Peated
aDepartment of Natural and Applied Sciences, Mount Mercy University, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
bOffice of the State Archaeologist, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242
cDepartment of World Languages and Cultures, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011
dDepartment of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242
ABSTRACT
This study provides evidence of the value of using isotopic
data from faunal remains to understand human diet and
mobility patterns when human remains are not available for
examination. In this research, bone apatite, bone collagen,
and enamel apatite from fauna recovered from recent
excavations of the Dixon site (13WD8), an Oneota complex
site (AD 1300–1400) in western Iowa, were analyzed for δ13C,
δ15N, δ18O, and 87Sr/86Sr values. The goals of this study were to
gather information about human and animal diet and mobility
and faunal procurement strategies of humans in the late
prehistoric period of upper midwestern North America and
to contribute to the growing literature using domesticated
dogs as surrogates for humans in isotopic studies of dietary
patterns. The results of this study find that the people
occupying the Dixon site were subsisting on agricultural
products, including maize, in conjunction with the gathered
wild resources and hunted fauna, which included both large
and small local game. While the Oneota complex is thought
to be associated with some amount of seasonal migration,
there is no evidence of these movements offered via this
study’s data nor is there strong evidence of long-distance
hunting. Domesticated canids were an important part of the
Dixon settlement and were fed human foodstuffs and scraps,
including maize. At times, these canids were also a source
of food. As a substitute for analyses of human remains, this
study uses the canine surrogacy approach (CSA) and argues
that the canid data would be similar to the human data from
the Dixon settlement. A Bayesian stable-isotope mixing
model (MixSiar) was used to quantitatively interpret the
stable-isotope values of the Dixon canids, and it suggests that
bison hunting was a specialization of the human population
occupying the Dixon site.
CONTACT Anna J. Waterman awaterman@mtmercy.edu
© 2022 Midwest Archaeological Conference
KEYWORDS
North America; isotopic
analysis; diet; mobility;
Oneota; domesticated
canids; canine surrogacy
approach
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2 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Introduction
Stable and radiogenic isotopic analysis of animal and human hard tissues can pro-
vide quantitative data about diet and mobility. Although direct analyses of hu-
man remains from archaeological settlements are not always an option, isotopic
analysis of animal teeth and bones can provide details about human diet and life-
ways that cannot be gleaned from traditional faunal analysis alone (Guiry 2012).
In this study, apatite, collagen, and enamel from fauna recovered from recent ex-
cavations of the Oneota complex (AD 1300–1400) Dixon site (13WD8) in western
Iowa were analyzed for δ13C, δ15N, δ18O, and 87Sr/86Sr values. The results of these
analyses provide valuable insights about human and animal diets and mobility,
human faunal procurement strategies, and their care for and use of domesticated
canids in the late prehistory of upper midwestern North America.
The Oneota Complex
The Oneota complex refers to Late Woodland and post-Woodland populations liv-
ing in the upper Midwest from circa AD 1000 to AD 1650 (Brown and Sasso 2001;
Fishel 1999a; Gibbon 1982; Green 1995; Hall 1962; Henning 1970; Schermer et al.
2015), with some additional occupation by them of the northeastern plains (Ritter-
bush and Logan 2000). In general, the Late Woodland to Oneota transition marks
a major change in lifeways in this region with the adoption of larger settlements,
more intensive maize production, and faunal procurement strategies that included
seasonal bison hunting and wetland resources exploitation (see Theler and Bo-
szhardt 2006 for discussion). The origins of the Oneota complex are unclear, with
some scholars contending it is related to the earlier Late Woodland and Middle
Mississippian archaeological traditions of the region, while others suggest that the
distinctive pottery styles and lifeways associated with it were brought into the re-
gion (Fishel 1999a; Gibbon 1972; Hollinger 2015; Theler and Boszhardt 2000). One-
ota complex settlements exhibit a high degree of variability across the Midwest but
are linked mainly by shared ceramic traditions (cf. Boszhardt 2008; Henning 1995;
Staeck 1995) and, to a lesser degree, by other material culture traditions and life-
ways. For many scholars, this variability makes the concept of Oneota as a mean-
ingful archaeological designation problematic, as the relationships between set-
tlements across time and space are unclear (Gibbon 1995; Staeck 1995). Moreover,
it is suggested that the Oneota complex may represent loosely affiliated groups
without any centralized polity or organization system (Benn 1995; Gibbon 1995).
Inter-site variability in foodways is increasingly viewed as a profitable avenue for the
exploration of differences between Oneota complex settlements, with the goal of
furthering our understanding of Oneota economies and interaction (see McTavish
[2020] and Painter and O’Gorman [2019] for recent examples).
Shared Oneota subsistence practices across the upper Midwest involved the hunt-
ing for and gathering of wild plants in combination with domestic crop production,
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 3
including, most prominently, maize but also squash and beans (Schroeder 1999;
Tubbs and O’Gorman 2005). Settlements are commonly found in ecotones between
forest and prairie landscapes near waterways or on terraces (Benton 2001). Seasonal
movement was likely, as were more permanent migrations (Ritterbush and Logan
2000), but the nature of mobile hunting ranges, seasonal movement, and interac-
tions with other settlements remains unclear. How heavily each village relied on im-
ported or local domesticated crops varied (Brown 1982; Edwards 2020; Gallagher
and Arzigian 1994; Hart 1990; Tubbs and O’Gorman 2005). Such variation related to
local ecological conditions, with Oneota complex peoples engaging in an opportu-
nistic mix of seasonal hunting (including small terrestrial fauna and aquatic animals)
in combination with exploiting local flora (Hart 1990; Jans-Langel 1999; Overstreet
1995; Tubbs and O’Gorman 2005). However, at some sites, the consumption levels of
maize and animal protein cannot be strongly tied to the landscape and instead may
be indicative of cultural or group identity (Jeske 2020).
The Oneota Complex in Western Iowa and the Dixon Site
In northwest Iowa, there is clear evidence of Oneota complex settlements by at
least AD 1300 (Henning 2015), with the continuation of them (either by constant
occupation or by reoccupation) until the 1800s (Fishel, ed. 1999). Oneota com-
plex sites in northwestern Iowa varied in size but, as in other parts of the upper
Midwest, were commonly situated near waterways—such as the substantial
Blood Run site (13L02) near the Big Sioux River (Harvey 1979) or the Dixon site
(13WD8) located on the Little Sioux River. Subsistence practices were a similar mix
of agriculture and local hunting and foraging at Oneota complex settlements in
northwestern Iowa, except there was more reliance on large game, such as bison,
that were available locally because of the proximity of the Great Plains (Ritterbush
2002). These animals would have been prized for their bones, which were com-
monly used as farming tools (Jans-Langel 1999; Ritterbush 2002), as well as for
their meat and hides. Faunal analysis at Oneota settlements in central and north-
western Iowa suggests that deer were mostly hunted locally, while other game,
such as bison, were obtained on long-distance hunts (Hall 2007; Tiffany and An-
derson 1993). In this paper, we consider long-distance hunting as procurement
the travel time of which would make it impractical to return to the settlement
without resting overnight and short-distance hunting as procurement within a
distance that permitted a return to the settlement during the same day. Fishel
(1999a) suggests that bison hunting may have taken place as far as 300 km to
the southwest at the site of White Rock in Kansas. Bison hunting over such long
distances would have influenced travel, carcass preparation, and carcass trans-
portation patterns for Oneota complex peoples, as large migratory game requires
different procurement strategies (Kehoe and Kehoe 1960).
The Dixon site is located in northwest Iowa, in Woodbury County, on the Lit-
tle Sioux River (Figure 1). The Dixon site (13WD8) is a multiple occupation village
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4 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
site associated with the Correctionville phase of the Oneota complex (Anderson
and Kendall 2021; Fishel 1995,1999b; Fishel, ed. 1999). Excavations were first con-
ducted on portions of the site in 1964–1965 (Harvey 1979). The first substantial
salvage excavations were conducted by the University of Iowa Office of the State
Archaeologist (OSA) in 1994 (Fishel 1995), after active riverbank erosion had re-
sulted in chronic loss of archaeological material from the Dixon site for more than
100 years. The most recent excavations, from which the materials analyzed in this
Figure 1. Dixon site location in Iowa.
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 5
study were drawn, were undertaken in 2016 and 2017 by the OSA (Anderson and
Kendall 2021) to mitigate impacts from a bank stabilization project. Radiocarbon
dates on 19 carbonized annual seeds of maize from features across the site and re-
covered from the most recent excavations at Dixon provide an occupation range
of 550–650 BP (1370–1470 cal AD; 2σ), corresponding to the Correctionville phase
of the Oneota complex (Anderson and Kendall 2021). These provide a slightly nar-
rower occupation window than Fishel suggests (1300–1440 AD) from his calibra-
tion of combined dates from the previous excavations at Dixon (Fishel 1999c:50).
Dixon Site Faunal Remains
The fauna from the most recently excavated Dixon site assemblages follows the
subsistence patterns described for similar Oneota sites on the plains (Harvey
1979; Haury-Artz 2021; Jan-Langel 1999; Ritterbush 2002), with a mix of hunting,
of gathering, and of cultivating maize and a heavy reliance on bison for meat,
hides, and bones for tools—marking a difference in Oneota complex groups in
western Iowa from those in settlements to the east. Over 16,000 bone fragments
were recovered during the 2016–2017 excavations, with 873 specimens identi-
fiable at least to order. At times, categories such as large mammal were used for
large robust bones that could be bison, elk, or bear but lacked diagnostic features
for positive identification. Mammal bone made up 70% of the identifiable ma-
terial by NISP. Primary food species included deer (Odocoileus sp.), bison (Bison
bison), and canids (Canis sp.). Additional mammal species that were probably also
sources of meat, hides, and tools include beaver (Castor canadensis), pronghorn
antelope (Antilocapra americana), and American elk (Cervus canadensis). A small
number of felid and bird specimens were also identified. These do not appear to
have been significant food resources. Fish and freshwater mussels obtained from
a variety of aquatic sources were also common. A more detailed account of the
following summary of the faunal remains recovered from the recent excavation at
Dixon is available in Haury-Artz (2021:227–284).
With the exception of pronghorns, the animals identified occupy habitats
within the geographical range of the site in northwest Iowa. Canids appear to
have been common at Dixon. A total of 153 individual elements attributable to
canids were identified, with elements from both mature and juvenile animals.
A majority of the specimens fall within the size range of coyotes and were clas-
sified as dog/coyote. Four significantly larger specimens were classified as dog/
wolf. Distinguishing the skeletal morphology of domestic and wild canids in
the Dixon assemblage is challenging as there are no complete skeletons and
very few complete elements. Specimens were widely distributed across the ex-
cavated area in both feature and nonfeature units and were collected from the
eroding riverbank. Extensive fragmentation precludes the use of craniometric
data for determining whether specimens represent domestic or wild canids.
The morphology of available mandibular specimens shows evidence of muzzle
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6 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
shortening, including a crowded tooth row; size reduction or elimination of
the third molar; and the positioning of the third molar on the ascending ra-
mus. The length ratio of the carnassial relative to the molar row also reflects the
shortening of the muzzle (Walker and Frison 1982:157–162) and suggests that
these specimens may have been domesticated. This is supported by contextual
considerations, such as the widespread distribution of specimens, old-age- or
labor-related pathology on one cervical vertebra, evidence of butchering and
burning on canid elements, and frequency of carnivore gnawing on other bones.
Both wild and domestic canids were also identified in earlier assemblages from
the site (Harvey 1979; Jans-Langel 1999).
Strontium Isotope Ratios and Landscapes
The quantification of radiogenic strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) in archaeo-
logically recovered hard tissues can be used to identify past human and animal
migration patterns (Beard and Johnson 2000; Bentley 2006; Price et al. 2002,
2012). During hard-tissue formation, strontium can substitute for calcium in the
hydroxyapatite, with isotope ratio values corresponding to those in ingested food
and water (Bentley 2006; Ericson 1985; Schroeder et al. 1972). The strontium iso-
tope ratios in consumables reflect the geologic features of the landscape where
these resources originated (Faure and Powell 1972; Gilli et al. 2009). Radiogenic
strontium isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) undergo minimal fractionation from diet to con-
sumer (Lewis et al. 2017); thus, values in hard tissues directly reflect the bioavail-
able strontium of the local environment. Humans and animals living in the same
landscapes and ingesting only local plants, animals, and water should exhibit sim-
ilar 87Sr/86Sr isotope values. Likewise, within geologically distinct regions, humans
and animals should exhibit differences in radiogenic strontium isotope ratios ac-
cording to the local lithology, making it possible to identify migrant humans and
animals. However, this methodology cannot distinguish between individuals who
originate from different locations that share similar bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr values.
Therefore, this method can only be used to quantify a minimum estimate of mo-
bility. Dental enamel does not remodel over time and preserves the strontium
isotope values from dietary uptake during formation. Therefore, variations in the
strontium ratios between dental enamel and the bioavailable strontium values of
the burial location may indicate migration since tooth formation (Price et al. 1994,
2004). This makes sampling from dental remains the most profitable avenue of
investigation when attempting to identify migrants using 87Sr/86Sr values.
The geology of western Iowa is composed mainly of Mesozoic and Upper Pa-
leozoic sedimentary rocks, including shales, limestones, and sandstones. How-
ever, western Iowa is also blanketed by thick deposits of glacial drift and loess.
These glacial drift deposits reflect a composite of bedrock primarily originating
from Minnesota and the Dakotas. In contrast, the windblown loess originates
from the Great Plains farther west (Prior 1991). Variability in the 87Sr/86Sr values in
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 7
regional plants reflects the provenance of the loess and glacial drift, and 87Sr/86Sr
ranges of 0.7087 to 0.7104 have been recorded from contemporary Iowa grasses
(Widga et al. 2017). It is expected that fauna from Dixon will also fall somewhere
in this range.
Stable Isotope Analysis Analyses of stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N, and δ18O) have
become an integral part of archaeological research over the last 40 years because
these data can provide evidence of dietary and migration patterns (Ambrose and
Krigbaum 2003; Katzenberg 2007; Makarewicz and Sealy 2015; and Schoeninger
and Moore 1992).
Bone is composed of organic protein (collagen) and inorganic minerals (apa-
tite). In humans and animals, δ13C and δ15N values from bone collagen are used
to calculate the dietary protein input of C3, C4, and Crassulacean acid metabo-
lism (CAM) plants and marine and terrestrial animal proteins (Ambrose and Norr
1993; Chisholm et al. 1982; Norr 1995; Schoeninger and DeNiro1984; Smith and
Epstein 1971), while in bone apatite, δ13C values are used to evaluate patterns of
C3, C4, and CAM plant consumption and marine protein input within the whole
diet (Froehle et al. 2010; Schwarcz 2000). From plants to herbivores and from prey
to predator, δ15N values increase by approximately 3‰–5‰ for each step up the
food chain (Katzenberg 2007). In general, the δ13Ccol values shift by ~5‰ from the
plant values to the consumer and ~1‰ for the next-level consumers in the tro-
phic system (Schoeninger and Moore 1992). For δ13Cap, the value shifts are larger
and vary according to type of food (Ambrose and Norr 1993). In bone apatite or
dental enamel, δ18O can vary according to water sources and can therefore be
used to recognize plants, animals, and humans from different geographic loca-
tions (Stuart-Williams et al. 1996; White et al. 2004).
The Canine Surrogacy Approach (CSA) When human remains are not available
for isotopic analysis, the diet of domesticated canids (henceforth referred to as
dogs for brevity) may serve as a good proxy (Noe-Nygaard 1988). This practice
has been labeled the canine surrogacy approach (CSA; see Edwards et al. 2017;
Guiry 2012; Laffoon et al. 2019 for discussions and reviews). This approach has
been used in stable-isotope studies of human diet throughout the world, and a
significant number of these studies have found human and dog dietary isotopic
values to fall within a 2‰–3‰ range of each other (Guiry 2012). However, other
scholars caution against this model as dogs can have highly variable diets even
within the same human community (Eriksson 2004; Eriksson and Zagorska 2003).
Despite the potential obstacles, since Burleigh and Brothwell (1978) first noted
the C4-plant markers in dog diets from ancient Peru, many scholars have found
the CSA valuable in studies of the introduction and consumption of maize in New
World populations (cf. Allitt et al. 2008; Edwards et al. 2017; Emerson et al. 2020;
Hogue 2003), as well as in research of other aspects of shared (or distinctive) diets
of humans and dogs in archaeologically known settlements (Witt et al. 2021).
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8 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Based on historical records, dogs had important roles in many Native Amer-
ican communities—acting as sentries, as hunting companions, as beasts of
burden (pulling travois and carrying other loads), and at times as consumables
(Becker and Lainey 2013; Kuehn 2016). In both the Iowa and Omaha (likely Oneota
descendants) traditions, dogs were part of settlement life and were eaten under
special circumstances (Foster 1994:37). Assuming dog use was similar for the peo-
ple at Dixon and that dogs were provisioned by the Dixon humans, isotopic data
on the Dixon canids may be able to help us establish: (1) that these were domes-
ticated canids (dogs) and, if so, (2) that the humans at Dixon likely shared some
dietary patterns with them.
Wild canids are primarily carnivores and, although opportunistic scavengers,
do not eat a large amount of maize or other C4 plants in their diets. The human
occupants of Dixon were maize farmers, and we would expect to see a strong
C4-plant signature in their δ13C values. Generally, primarily C3-plant feeders have
δ13Ccol values of approximately −21‰, while the values are closer to about −7‰
for animals primarily subsisting on C4 plants (Ambrose and Norr 1993:22–26; Lee-
Thorp et al. 1989). If a pattern of C4-plant consumption is indicated by the data for
the Dixon canids, we interpret this as meaning they were dogs being provisioned
with human food (maize).
In the Dixon assemblage, a significant portion (20.5%) of the canid remains
have indications of butchery (Haury-Artz 2021), suggesting that canid consump-
tion was an established practice for the people inhabiting this site. If common-
place enough, the human consumption of canids at the Dixon site could enrich
the δ15N values in the bone collagen of the people to levels slightly above the
values for any provisioned dog from the site but likely not enough to pass a ~3‰
estimation range, as it is doubtful dogs would have been a dietary staple. The
Dixon humans would have been consuming a combination of C4 and C3 plants
as well as animals (with C3- and C4-plant based diets). Therefore, we expect their
δ13Ccol values would be intermediate between the C3-plant versus the C4-plant diet
endpoints, perhaps in the −15‰ to −9‰ range. We would also expect that any
dogs at Dixon would have a similar δ13Ccol to that of humans. While we can assume
Dixon dogs would have been sharing water sources and at times were directly
provided water by their human companions, any dog δ18O values are likely to
be slightly higher than that of the humans as panting, as opposed to sweating,
causes δ18O enrichment in body tissues (Crowley et al. 2015).
Materials and Methods
Sampled Materials
Bone apatite, collagen, and dental enamel from animals recovered from recent
excavations of the Dixon site (13WD8) were analyzed for stable (δ13C, δ15N, and
δ18O) and radiogenic (87Sr/86Sr) isotopic values. All samples are from refuse-pit
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 9
features apart from Feature 4946, which is a surface midden; Feature 6407, which
is a hearth cleanout; and Feature 8312, which is not associated with a specific fea-
ture. The faunal remains were selected according to the following criteria: (1) Each
sample was from a discretely identifiable animal, and (2) preference was given to
mandibular and maxillary fragments that contained at least one tooth in order
to obtain dietary (C, N) and mobility (Sr, O) data from the same animal. In all, we
were able to find only 12 animals that fit both criteria. To increase the number of
animals for which dietary data were available, an additional eight bone samples
were taken, which could provide data on carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen but not
strontium. As one project goal was to investigate the value of using the canine
surrogacy approach at the Dixon site, samples from all individually identifiable
canids were used. To help calculate the local bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr isotope compo-
sition, rodent bones from the archaeological layers and samples of native living
plants from the site were also analyzed.
Radiogenic Isotopes
For the enamel samples, surfaces were cleaned with acetone and surface enamel
was removed because of possible diagenetic contamination (Budd et al. 2000;
Price et al. 2002). Next, 5–10 mg of powdered enamel were collected using a
Dremel tool and a Dremel 5/64-inch diamond wheel point. Plants were ashed at
500°C for 5 hours in a muffle furnace before chemical processing. All chemical pro-
cessing of the enamel and plant samples was carried out in the University of Iowa
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences clean laboratory. All enamel
samples were precleaned in 5% acetic acid for 48 hours and then triple rinsed.
Enamel and plant samples were dissolved in 1 mL of 3M HNO3, using sonication
to aid digestion. Strontium was isolated with Eichrom Sr-spec ion-exchange resins
using standard procedures (see Waight et al. 2002).
The
87Sr/86Sr ratios were measured using a Nu Plasma HR multicollector in-
ductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) in the Department
of Geology at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Samples were in-
troduced to the machine using a Nu Instruments DSN-100 desolvator system
equipped with a nebulizer with an aspiration rate near 0.1 mL min-1. The sam-
ples were alternately run with standards (SRM 987, SCS coral, and E&A) using
a sample-standard-bracketing measurement protocol wherein standards were
run every six samples (Rehkämper et al. 2004). The 88Sr beam intensities for
all samples and standards ranged from 8 V to 14 V (30 ppb solutions). Masses
of 83Kr to 88Sr were measured during a single cycle comprised of 2 blocks of
25 scans (5 s integration per scan), with a 40 s baseline determination using
ESA-deflected signals. The standard error reported by the mass spectrometer
was 0.000007103. Corrected ratios were normalized to the NIST SRM 987 inter-
national standard value of 0.710255. Procedural blanks were <100 pg Sr.
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10 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Stable Isotopes
Samples were prepared for stable-isotope analysis at the Paleoecology Laboratory
of Iowa State University. Bone collagen was extracted using a procedure similar to
the “whole bone” method described by Sealy et alia (2014). Bone fragments (~5 x
5 mm diam.) were demineralized at room temperature by soaking them in 0.25
M hydrochloric acid, which was refreshed every 48 hours over the course of two
weeks. After complete demineralization, collagen pseudomorphs were rinsed to
neutrality with ultrapure water. Humic acids and base-soluble contaminants were
removed through a 6-hour soak in 0.125M sodium hydroxide. Collagen pseudo-
morphs were then solubilized in a weak acid (pH 3 HCl) at 85⁰C for 24–36 hours,
filtered through an Ezee-FilterTM separator (60–90 µm), and then lyophilized using
a benchtop freeze dryer.
Samples were also analyzed for stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios in
structural bone carbonate following preparation procedures similar to those of
Koch et alia (1997). Powdered bone was removed from precleaned skeletal ele-
ments with a Dremel drill equipped with a diamond-tipped engraving bit. Powder
samples were then passed through a fine sieve. At room temperature, samples
were reacted with 2% sodium hypochlorite for 24 hours, rinsed to neutrality with
ultrapure water, reacted for 24 hours with 1M acetic acid (buffered with calcium
acetate to pH 5), and rinsed to neutrality again. Samples were then dried for 24
hours in a laboratory oven.
Mass spectrometry of collagen and apatite samples was conducted in the Stable
Isotope Laboratory in the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences at
Iowa State University. Collagen samples were analyzed for carbon and nitrogen iso-
topes using a Costech Elemental Analyzer coupled to a ThermoFinnigan Delta Plus
XL mass spectrometer. Along with visual analyses and collagen yield percentages,
C:N ratios of the analyzed gases were calculated to determine the preservation
of collagen and the reliability of the isotope results. Carbon and nitrogen isotope
ratios are reported using the delta (δ) notation, in parts per mil (‰) relative to
the V-PDB and AIR standards, respectively. The analytical uncertainty of the re-
sults is ±0.13‰ for δ13C and ±0.11‰ for δ15N. Carbon and oxygen isotope ratios
in bone apatite were analyzed with a Gas Bench with a CombiPAL autosampler
coupled to the ThermoFinnigan Delta Plus XL mass spectrometer. Carbon and ox-
ygen isotope ratios from bone apatite carbonate are both reported relative to the
V-PDB. The analytical uncertainty for δ13C is ±0.06‰ (V-PDB); for δ18O it is ±0.15‰
(V-PDB).
Results and Discussion
Radiogenic Isotopes
The estimated local bioavailable 87Sr/86Sr isotope range for the Dixon site is
0.7087–0.7095. These values were calculated by taking 2 SD (0.00041) of the mean
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 11
Table 1. Stable and Radiogenic Isotopic Data for Dixon Samples.
Catalog Number Specimen δ13Ccol (VPDB; ‰) δ15N (Air; ‰) C (%) N (%) C:N δ13Cap (VPDB; ‰) δ18O (VPDB; ‰) 87Sr/86Sr
100.2–1 Bison bison −13.5 5.6 0.4 0.2 3.3 −0.9 −5.2
1466.1–1 Bison bison −12.1 6.1 0.5 0.2 3.3 −1.3 −5.4 0.70903
1360.1–1 Bison bison −13.2 7.0 0.5 0.2 3.5 −4.0 −4.9 0.70935
10709.2–1 Canis −14.5 8.9 0.5 0.2 3.3 −4.6 −6.6 0.70895
10717.5–1 Canis −12.6 9.9 0.5 0.1 3.8 −6.2 −7.9 0.70907
1679.11–1 Canis −11.0 8.7 0.4 0.1 3.3 −5.8 −8.8
1465.11–5 Canis −14.2 5.4 0.5 0.2 3.4 −5.8 −8.6
1459.11–13 Canis −11.3 9.1 0.5 0.2 3.2 −5.2 −9.1 0.70923
6473.7–2 Canis −10.1 9.1 0.4 0.2 3.2 −4.9 −6.4 0.70889
1426.8–1 Odocoileus sp. −20.5 4.6 0.4 0.1 3.3 −6.5 −5.6 0.70906
1429.6–1 Odocoileus sp. −20.7 4.1 0.5 0.2 3.3 −7.5 −5.3
1667.6–1 Odocoileus sp. −20.9 5.0 0.4 0.2 3.3 −10.4 −4.8 0.70941
1735.13–2 Odocoileus sp. −20.7 4.8 0.4 0.2 3.4 −7.1 −4.2 0.70904
4946.1–1 Odocoileus sp. −21.2 3.6 0.5 0.2 3.3 −9.4 −5.3 0.70885
6266.1–1 Odocoileus sp. −20.4 4.1 0.5 0.2 3.3 −9.5 −5.6 0.71007
1458.8–1 Antilocapra americana −19.6 6.8 0.4 0.2 3.2 −10.6 −5.6
337.1–1 Castor canadensis −13.2 6.8 0.4 0.1 3.4 −4.2 −9.7
101.2–2 Castor canadensis −21.5 7.7 0.4 0.1 3.4 −10.3 −7.8 0.70874
8312.1–1 Castor canadensis −14.8 10.3 0.5 0.2 3.3 −9.6 −7.2 0.70945
1071.7–9 Testudines −18.7 9.5 0.5 0.1 3.6 −7.7 −5.3
6407.9–3 Cricetidae 0.70902
DXP1 Flora sample 1 0.70925
DXP2 Flora sample 2 0.70922
DXP4 Flora sample 3 0.70910
DXP5 Flora sample 4 0.70936
Local Range (±2 SD of mean) 0.7087–0.7095
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12 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
(0.70912) of all sampled fauna with available dental enamel (one statistical outlier
removed) and four plant samples (Table 1; Bentley et al. 2004; Price et al. 2002).
The Widga et alia (2017) survey of 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios in grasses across the
midcontinent recorded ratios of 0.7089–0.7098 within a 30-mile radius of the Dixon
site. These values match the fauna and plants from Dixon and fit with the Oneota
complex Rainbow site (13PM91) ratios (0.7092) in Plymouth County, Iowa, located
~90 km to the northwest of Dixon (Hedman et al. 2009). The Dixon values are also
consistent with 87Sr/86Sr isotope data from archaeologically recovered fauna from
northwestern Iowa, southwestern Iowa, and southeastern Nebraska (Hedman et
al. 2018; Widga et al. 2010), as well as from southeastern Iowa (Waterman 2020),
suggesting homogeneity across the state and into Nebraska. Similar ratios can also
be found in northern and southwestern Illinois (Cook and Price 2015; Hedman et
al. 2009, 2018). However, Widga et alia (2017) discovered some grass samples that
measured in the 0.7100–0.7105 range in northeast Iowa, in central Iowa, and north-
west of the Dixon site in the floodplain of the Little Sioux River. Moreover, they also
recorded values in the 0.710–0.711 range for grasses in the Missouri River valley
in Nebraska, to the west of the Dixon site (Widga et al. 2010, 2017). Thus, there are
some pockets of variation in 87Sr/86Sr ratios across the landscape.
Only one sampled archaeological animal from Dixon, a deer, had an 87Sr/86Sr
isotope ratio (0.7100) outside the local range (Figure 2). Based on grasses sampled
Figure 2. 87Sr/86Sr values for Dixon samples. The solid gray line represents the mean and the
dashed lines represent two standard deviations above and below the mean.
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 13
in Widga et alia (2017), it is possible the deer was acquired nearby in Iowa or Ne-
braska. The finding that this deer is an outlier is noteworthy as the sampled deer
mandible exhibited modifications. The distal end was tapered, rounded, and pol-
ished and perhaps used as a sickle or digging tool (Figure 3; Haury-Artz 2019,
2021:267–269).
Bison were plentiful in the tallgrass prairies of the midcontinent during the
occupation of Dixon, and the 87Sr/86Sr ratios for both bison fell within the local
range. These values match 87Sr/86Sr ratios from bison recovered from archaeolog-
ical sites in northwest Iowa, southwest Iowa, and eastern Nebraska (Widga et al.
2010). As much of this region shares similar 87Sr/86Sr ratio ranges, it is impossible to
discern the exact migration patterns related to kill location from these data alone.
However, the bison recovered from Dixon are disproportionately represented by
relatively few elements, primarily scapula and ribs (Haury-Artz 2021:264–266).
This suggests that only select elements were being transported to the settlement.
Such a “light butchering” strategy would have been employed when kills took
place at some distance from the village, making it impractical to transport whole
carcasses (Kehoe and Kehoe 1960).
Stable Isotopes: Herbivores
The results for all the sampled fauna are presented in Table 1 and δ13C, δ15N, and
δ18O values in Figures 4–8. Measures of diagenesis suggested all specimens retained
Figure 3. Deer mandible, nonlocal with tool modification.
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14 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
biogenic stable isotope values. One specimen (10717.5–1), however, exhibited a
high C:N ratio of 3.8, suggesting the possibility of postdepositional degradation of
the collagen. Nevertheless, this individual’s stable isotope values do not appreciably
differ from the mean, and thus we retain it in the subsequent analysis.
For the deer, the δ13Ccol values depict homogeneous diets of almost exclu-
sively C3 plants (Figure 4). The δ15N values for the deer are typical for woodland
herbivores in a mainly C3-plant ecosystem with ample rainfall. Differences in the
spacing between δ13Ccol and δ13Cap vary between carnivores and herbivores and
are often attributed to differential protein intake (Krueger and Sullivan 1984; Lee-
Thorp et al. 1989). The δ13C collagen and apatite spacing for herbivores is ~7‰
and for carnivores is ~4‰. Omnivores fall somewhere in between depending on
diet. However, variations in protein and carbohydrate portions of diet can affect
this spacing. For example, if the dietary protein component is 13C depleted and
the carbohydrate component is 13C enriched—as it is in a diet based on maize or
other C4 plants—then the δ13C collagen and apatite spacing is large, ~7‰–11‰
(Ambrose and Norr 1993).
For the deer in this study, the average δ13Ccolδ13Cap spacing is 12.3‰, suggesting
that some carbohydrate portion of the deer diet may have been coming from C4
plants. The patterning of the stable carbon-isotope values of the deer diet is visual-
ized in Figure 5, which displays Dixon faunal stable-isotope values in relation to the
simple carbon-isotope dietary model (Froehle et al. 2010; Kellner and Schoeninger
Figure 4. Scatterplot of δ13C and δ15N collagen values for Dixon fauna sorted by animal name
and grouped by category.
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 15
2007). This model is comprised of two regression lines, a C3-protein line and a
C4-protein line, that are generated from data derived from experimental feeding
studies on rats, mice, and pigs with diets of known macronutrient component and
stable-isotope values. Because the deer specimens plot below and to the right of
the C3-protein line, their protein was likely C3 based, but dietary carbohydrates and/
or lipids likely came from 13C-enriched plant sources. In general, maize, the most
plentiful C4 plant grown in this region, is high in carbohydrates and low in protein.
These data indicate deer may have been foraging in the human-grown maize fields,
but alternatively, some C4 input could have been coming from C4 prairie grasses. The
δ18O values for all the deer apatite were very similar (avg. −5.1‰ ± 0.3‰; Figure 6),
pointing to the use of similar water sources. The δ18O values for the Missouri River
and its tributaries in the Dixon region are documented to range from −12.2‰ to
−6.6‰, and higher tributary values would be common in the spring with the snow-
melt (Winston and Criss 2003). Large-bodied herbivores can consume a significant
amount of 18O-rich plant water from grazing, and this enrichment will increase the
δ18O values in hard tissues (Cullen et al. 2019). As the deer were probably harvested
locally, the higher-than-riverine δ18O values are more likely due to diet rather than
to migration or long-distance hunting.
The bison appear to have specialized more in C4-plant consumption than did
the deer. As we can expect δ13Ccol values of approximately −21‰ for primarily C3-
plant feeders and approximately −7‰ for animals mainly subsisting on C4 plants
Figure 5. Scatterplot of δ13Cap and δ13Ccol values from Dixon fauna positioned over the simple
carbon isotope model outlined by Kellner and Schoeninger (2007) and Froehle et alia (2010).
Diagonal lines represent the C3 and C4 protein lines derived from experimental feeding studies.
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16 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
(Ambrose and Norr 1993:22–26; Lee-Thorp et al. 1989), the bison (avg. δ13Ccol
=
−12.9‰) were clearly consuming a diet of mixed C3 and C4 plants. The δ15N values
were higher on average for the bison than for the deer. Environmental aridity is
known to correlate with higher δ15N values in plants (Luo et al. 2018), and the
tallgrass prairies to the west–southwest of the Dixon site are home to mixed C4
and C3 grasses and have warmer and more arid conditions, making them a likely
origin for these bison. The average δ13C collagen and apatite spacing for the bison
was 10.8‰, implying some difference in plant sources for proteins and carbohy-
drates—but one less extreme than that for the deer. Again, the standard devia-
tions for the bison data were much larger for the δ13Cap values than for the δ13Ccol
values (1.7‰ vs. 0.7‰), suggesting more variability in the carbohydrate portion
of the diet. The δ18O values were similar to those of the deer. Again, this value
could be due to 18O-enriched plant (water) intake, but these data also match the
general δ18O values for the eastern Great Plains (Widga et al. 2010). While the iso-
topic signatures of the Dixon bison match patterns for archaeologically recovered
bison from western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, the Dixon bison are less similar
to ones from the Itasca bison kill site in northern Minnesota—which generally
have lower δ13Cap and δ18O values and higher 87Sr/86Sr ratios (Widga et al. 2010).
They are also distinctly different from bison occupying the mixed-grass prairies in
southwestern South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park (Britton 2010). The mixed-
grass prairie that extends through the central parts of Nebraska, the Dakotas, and
Figure 6. Scatterplot of δ13Cap and δ18O values from bone mineral apatite of Dixon fauna. Shaded
area indicates local water range for riverine δ18O values.
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 17
the eastern parts of Utah and Montana contains only ~20% C4 plants (Larson et
al. 2001). A diet based on these grasses, rather than those of the C4 plant–rich
tallgrass prairies, would result in lower δ13C values in hard tissues. Therefore, while
we cannot pinpoint the Dixon bison origins or migration route, they were likely
not obtained from northern Minnesota, the Dakotas, or the mixed-grass prairie of
central Nebraska and likely did not follow a northern migration pattern.
Like the bison, the elk’s dietary signature suggests a diet of C4/C3 prairie grasses
in a warm and arid landscape, with evidence of C4-plant intake. However, the δ18O
value for the elk is significantly lower than for the deer or bison, suggesting a
different water source. The δ15N value (6.8‰) for the pronghorn matches those
of the bison and the elk, but the δ13Ccol value (−19.6‰) points to this animal con-
suming mainly C3 grasses and plants and, therefore, not subsisting on the same
tallgrass-prairie ecosystem. While pronghorns are not found in Iowa today, histor-
ically they were in the far west of the state, with a habitat range throughout most
of the Great Plains and into the far western states (Hoffman et al. 2011). Today
their habitat is much reduced. The pronghorn’s δ18O value is close to that of both
the deer and the bison. Unfortunately, no dental enamel was available from the
pronghorn from which to gather information on possible origins via strontium
isotopes. However, the dietary data may suggest an origin in the mixed-grass prai-
ries of central Nebraska.
The two sampled beavers exhibited disparate diets, with one showing unusu-
ally high δ15N values for a herbivore (10.3‰), as well as evidence of some C4 plants
in the diet. The other, while having δ15N values higher than either the bison or
the deer, has δ13Ccol values that suggest a diet based on C3 plants. As beavers are
aquatic mammals, these dietary variations are most likely due to the dietary input
of aquatic plants. Aquatic plants are highly variable in their δ15N values, ranging
from ~5‰ to ~20‰ depending on the type of plant, water-body type, and the
dissolved nitrogen content of the water (Chappuis et al. 2017). While the beavers
in this study may have consumed different types of plants in their home habitat,
the δ18O values are very similar, suggesting similar waterway homes. The other
river vertebrate in this study, a turtle, exhibited isotopic values likely reflecting
a diet composed of a mix of riverine and terrestrial plants and insects. The δ18O
value for the turtle (−5.3‰) was more like that of the deer than that of the two
beavers, perhaps reflecting common water sources but also maybe reflecting the
terrapin’s status as an ectotherm.
Stable Isotopes: Canids
For the canids, the δ13Ccol range was −14.5‰ to −10.1‰ (avg. −12.3‰ ± 1.8‰).
These values indicate they were eating C4 plants directly or consuming animals
that were subsisting on C4 plants. As coyotes and wolves are both carnivores,
these findings, in combination with documentation of reduced muzzle length,
lend credibility to the assertion that the canids in this study are domesticated
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18 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
canids (dogs). The usefulness of a combination of morphological and isotopic
analyses to distinguish dogs from wild canids has been proposed in previous
studies (e.g., Fisher 2019) and may help distinguish domesticated canids from hy-
brids or wolves consuming C4-plant grazing herbivores—like bison on the west-
ern plains of the United States (Fisher 2019).
Maize was an important staple crop for people of the Oneota complex, and the
Dixon canids were likely fed C4 crops either directly in the form of maize gruel or
as a part of human food waste. Apart from one canid, which had a δ15N value of
5.4‰ and may have had a divergent life history (a new migrant in the settlement
perhaps), most canids appear to have been consuming a fair amount of terrestrial
animal proteins or possibly freshwater fish (δ15N ranges from 8.7‰ to 9.1‰). As
there is evidence of bone gnawing by canids in the Dixon faunal assemblage, we
can assume meat scraps obtained from humans were a dietary component. For
the canids, the δ13Cap was more homogeneous than it was for the deer or bison
(avg. −5.4‰ ± 0.6‰), indicating a more consistent diet, which may reflect less
seasonal variation in food sources. The δ13C collagen and apatite spacing (avg.
6.9‰) is more indicative of an omnivore’s than a carnivore’s diet. Hence, while the
Dixon canids may have consumed freshwater fish, as has been found in evidence
of canid diets at American Bottom sites (Witt et al. 2021), or meat from animals
consuming C4 plants, it is unlikely this accounts for the δ13Ccol or δ13Cap values. The
δ18O values for the canid apatite were again more variable than those for the deer
or the bison (avg. −7.9‰ ± 1.1‰), with several canids with values over 8.0‰.
These values are all in the range of the local waterways.
Applying the Canine Surrogacy Approach (CSA) to Dixon
Although we have limited morphological data on the Dixon canids, we argue that,
based on the dietary signatures, life history, and morphological data that can be
gleaned from the Dixon assemblage, the Dixon canids in this study are dogs. Ed-
wards et alia (2017) suggest that, in the absence of human remains, the canine
surrogacy approach is an applicable and a useful way to gain dietary information
about late prehistoric populations of the Midwest. To aid in inferring human dietary
practices from dog dietary practices, we plot the Dixon stable-isotope values along-
side previously published human and dog values from roughly contemporaneous
late prehistoric archaeological sites of the region (Figure 7; Table 2). Two of these
samples—from Morton Village, an Oneota complex site in the central Illinois River
valley (Tubbs 2013), and from the American Bottom, at a collection of sites in the re-
gion near Cahokia (Emerson et al. 2020)—are represented by both human and dog
data. For the American Bottom sites, we focus on those from the Late Woodland II
period (TLW II) as this period had the most robust sample size of dogs and humans.
At both comparative sites, the dog and the human isotopic data were within 3‰ of
each other, with the human data showing enrichment over the dog data for both
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 19
the δ13C and the δ15N values (see Figure 7). We suggest that the Dixon human data
should have a similar relationship, and we estimate that the Dixon humans would
have an average δ13C value in the −11.3‰ to −9.3‰ range and a δ15N average in the
9.5‰ to 11.5‰ range. These values would suggest that maize, or other C4 plants,
were an important part of the diet at Dixon and that the humans were consuming a
fair amount of animal protein.
In addition to Morton Village and the American Bottom sites, we compared
Dixon dog data with human stable-isotope values from three additional late pre-
historic sites from the region. These include the Oneota complex Langford sites in
Illinois (Emerson et al. 2005), the Hoxie Farm Upper Mississippian site from north-
ern Illinois (Jackson 2017), and the Plains Village Maxwell site from the central
plains in Nebraska (Tieszen et al. 1997; see Figure 7). Notably, the Dixon values
plot closest to those of the Plains Village Maxwell site, suggesting diets and sub-
sistence strategies were most similar to those of that community.
To further our understanding of the human diet at the Dixon site, we used a
Bayesian stable-isotope mixing model to quantitatively interpret the stable-isotope
values of canid bone collagen. The dietary estimations were calculated in the R
computing environment version 4.02 (R Core Team 2020) using the stable-isotope
mixing-model package, MixSIAR (v. 3.1.11; Stock et al. 2018). We set five primary
food sources for the model: (1) bison, (2) deer, (3) river fauna, (4) C3 plants, and (5)
maize. For animal food sources, we used the faunal stable-isotope data of this study.
For the plant categories, we consulted previous studies on plant stable-isotope val-
ues (Kohn 2010; Lensink et al. 2020:166; Tieszen et al. 1997) and assumed C3 plants
Figure 7. Scatterplot of δ13Ccol and δ15N values (±1 SD) of human and canid stable isotope values
from archaeological sites in the upper Midwest and eastern plains.
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20 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Table 2. List of Sites Used as Part of Comparative Study.
Culture Sites Region Species Mean δ13Ccol (‰) SD δ13Ccol (‰) Mean δ15Ncol (‰) SD δ15Ncol (‰) NReference
Plains Village
(AD 1200–1400)
Maxwell site Plains, NE Human −10.2 0.9 9.7 0.7 10 Tieszzen et al. 1997
Oneota
(AD 1000–1400)
Langford sites Langford, IL Human −12.0 1.1 9.5 0.4 35 Emerson et al. 2005
Oneota
(AD 1150–1400)
Morton Village Central River
Valley, IL
Human −12.0 1.3 10.3 0.7 55 Tubbs 2013
Oneota
(AD 1150–1400)
Morton Village Central River
Valley, IL
Canid −15.0 0.5 8.5 0.5 3 Tubbs 2013
Mississippian, Cahokia
(AD 1000–1050)
Multiple American
Bottom, IL
Human −13.3 3.3 9.6 0.5 14 Emerson et al. 2020
Mississippian, Cahokia
(AD 1000–1050)
Janey B. Goode American
Bottom, IL
Canid −15.9 2.7 8.9 0.6 5 Emerson et al. 2020
Upper Mississippian
(AD 1250–1600)
Hoxie Farm Northern Illinois Human −15.7 1.3 9.9 0.6 17 Jackson 2017
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 21
exhibited means (±1 SD) of δ13C = −25.0‰ ± 1.0‰ and δ15N = 2.0‰ ± 1.2‰ and
that maize (C4 plant) exhibited means (±1 SD) of δ13C = −9.3‰ ± 0.9‰ and δ15N =
3.0‰ ± 0.8‰. The category river vertebrates included both beavers and the single
turtle as they occupied a similar isotopic niche characterized by relatively high
δ15N values and intermediate δ13Ccol values. The stable-isotope values of elk and
pronghorn were not included as they were only represented by singular speci-
mens. For the trophic discrimination factors, we follow Cheung and Szpak (2020)
and assume δ13Ccol-diet = 1.0‰ ± 0.63‰ and δ15Ncol-diet = 4.0‰ ± 0.74‰. For
collagen-plant trophic enrichment factors, we assume δ13Ccol-diet = 5.0‰ ±
0.63‰ and δ15Ncol-diet = 4.0‰ ± 0.74‰. To account for the different concentra-
tions of carbon and nitrogen in plant tissues as compared to animal tissues, we
used the concentration-dependence feature of the MixSIAR package, incorporat-
ing values from the USDA FDA and previous studies (Phillips and Koch 2002), as-
suming animal tissue will contain ~45% carbon and ~16% nitrogen and plant
foods will contain ~44% carbon and 2% nitrogen. A generalized prior was used for
the model, making no assumptions about the dominant form of protein. The ca-
nid with the outlier δ15N value (5.4‰) was excluded from the mixing model to
better capture the dietary patterns of the central cluster.
The results of the MixSIAR analysis indicate that maize and maize-based foods
formed a large part of the protein component of the canids’ diet and that bison
was likely the most important animal food source (Figure 8; Table 3). The median
value and 95% credible intervals (Bayesian confidence intervals) suggest that
maize products contributed 35% (9%–54%) of the diet, bison meat contributed
25% (2%–63%), deer meat contributed 19% (1%–39%), C3 plants contributed 12%
(1%–37%), and river vertebrates (turtles and beavers) formed a low portion of the
diet, with a median of 5% (0%–37%). These dietary estimates, however, should be
considered preliminary due to the small sample sizes of our data set, the inability
of the model to distinguish bison from elk, the absence of fish or shellfish from
our model, and the nature of bone collagen, which is biased toward dietary pro-
tein sources. The large error bars, moreover, allow multiple interpretations of diet
composition. Nevertheless, our results, which are supported by zooarchaeologi-
cal data and ethnohistoric models of the subsistence strategies, provide a testable
model for the subsistence strategies of the western Oneota that future studies
may support or modify.
Table 3. Estimated Proportions of Different Food Sources in the Diet of Dixon Site Dogs.
Food Source Mean SD Median 95% CI Range
Bison 0.27 0.17 0.25 0.015–0.632
Deer 0.19 0.11 0.18 0.011–0.394
River vertebrates 0.06 0.06 0.05 0.003–0.209
C3 plants 0.14 0.10 0.12 0.006–0.367
Maize 0.34 0.11 0.35 0.092–0.544
Note: Calculations made using the MixSIAR Bayesian stable-isotope mixing model package.
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22 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Figure 8. Results of the Bayesian stable-isotope mixing model (MixSIAR): (a) scatterplot of dog
stable-isotope values plotted against food-source data adjusted for trophic enrichment factors
and SDs and (b) probability density distributions of dietary sources in dog diets.
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MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 23
Summary and Conclusions
The aim of this study was to analyze δ13C, δ15N, δ18O, and 87Sr/86Sr values in fauna
recovered from the Dixon site (13WD8) in western Iowa in order to understand
more about the diet, mobility, faunal procurement strategies, and provisioning
and use of domesticated canids of the people associated with the Oneota com-
plex of the North American Midwest. The 87Sr/86Sr and δ18O data do not suggest a
high degree of mobility in terms of hunting strategies. However, it is important to
note that the local 87Sr/86Sr isotope range that was calculated for Dixon matches
data from landscapes across the Midwest; thus, the data can only be used to find
the minimum number of migrants, as migrant animals coming from similar geo-
logical landscapes will be missed.
Based on dietary data and, where available, morphological/life history data, it
was argued here that the canids in this study are dogs. It was also argued that, with a
lack of human remains from the Dixon site available for study, these canids are
good candidates for use in the canine surrogacy approach. We suggest that the hu-
mans from Dixon would fall in a ~3‰ range higher than the mean canid values (see
Figure 7) and that these values indicate maize was an important contribution to the
carbohydrate component of the diet. The MixSIAR model indicates that the most
important animal-protein source consumed by canids was bison meat, suggesting
that bison hunting was a specialization of the Dixon site’s human population. Based
on comparative samples from broadly contemporaneous Middle Mississippian, Up-
per Mississippian, Oneota complex, and Plains Village populations, the estimated
human data fall closest to the Plains Village data. This suggests people at the Dixon
site may have been using similar subsistence practices to those used in the Plains
Village. The site’s proximity to the Great Plains lends strength to this finding.
In sum, based on the isotopic data from faunal remains recovered from the
Dixon site in western Iowa, settlement occupants were subsisting on cultivated
maize in conjunction with gathered wild resources and hunted local game that
included both large (deer) and small (beavers) animals but perhaps specialized in
procuring bison. While settlement occupants are thought to have practiced some
amount of seasonal migration, there is no evidence of these movements in the
isotopic values of the domesticated canids, which we assume would have been
traveling with them, nor from the type of game recovered as, with the exception
of the pronghorn, all other animals could have been obtained locally. If migra-
tion or long-distance hunting was occurring, it was likely across landscapes that
shared geological and ecological characteristics and, therefore, similar 87Sr/86Sr
isotope ranges. Dogs were an important part of life at the Dixon settlement and
were fed human foodstuffs, including maize and bison meat. At times, the canids
were also consumed. The data presented here provide additional quantitative in-
formation to supplement the archaeological record from the excavation at Dixon
and show the value of isotopic studies of faunal remains in places where human
remains are not available.
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24 MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Acknowledgments
We would like to first acknowledge the sovereignty and the traditional territories of the many
Tribal Nations who recognize our research location as their homeland. Understanding and hon-
oring the historical and current experiences of Native peoples helps inform the work we do. We
would like to thank those who participated in the fieldwork, lab work, and administration of the
2016–2017 Bank Stabilization Project, including Mark Anderson, Dave Bartlett, Janee Becker, Drew
Brockman, Leslie Bush, Dustin Clarke, Warren Davis, Brennan Dolan, Murray Grant, Muriel Grubb,
Pat Hashman, Dan Horgen, Ryan Lange, Tucker Lutter, Rose McCarty, Dan McCulloch, Jennifer
Mack, Carl Merry, Bill Moore, Lara Noldner, Maria Schroeder, Ben Shirar, Megan Stroh Messerole,
Nate Westbrook, Stephen Valdez, and Kevin Verhulst. Thank you to the organizations that pro-
vided welcome consultation and feedback during excavation, including the Iowa Department of
Transportation, Location and Environment Bureau, Upper Sioux Community, Iowa Tribe of Kansas
and Nebraska, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Otoe-Missouri Tribe, Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma,
Prairie Island Indian Community, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Spirit Lake Tribe, U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, Rock Island District, University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, and Iowa State
Historic Preservation Office. We thank the research assistants of the Paleoecology Laboratory at
Iowa State University, including Julien Royer, Aridania Gerardo, Courtney Schill, Gabrielle McPher-
son, and Rachel Ernwine, for their work on this project. Thanks also to all those who assisted with
the sample processing and mass spectrometry aspects of this research for the 87Sr/86Sr data, in-
cluding Terryl Bandy and Phil Pagano from the University of Iowa MATfab facility and project assis-
tant Andrew Brockman. Special thanks to Thomas Johnson and Craig Lundstrom at the University
of Illinois (UIUC) for their expertise, advice, and patient assistance at the Multicollector ICPMS Lab-
oratory during the middle of a pandemic. Lastly, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers
for their assistance in improving this paper. Financial support for the stable isotope analysis was
provided by the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist Staff Excellence Award.
Notes on Contributors
Anna J. Waterman is an assistant professor in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences
at Mount Mercy University. Waterman is a biological anthropologist who specializes in bioar-
chaeological research focused on using stable and radiogenic isotope data to understand pre-
historic mobility and dietary patterns.
Bryan S. Kendall , MA (University of Iowa, 2006), is a project archaeologist at the University of
Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist and specializes in landscape use and site formation pro-
cesses and the application of earth science approaches to archaeology.
Chérie E. Haury-Artz has an MA in anthropology from the University of Kansas. She has been
involved in archaeological research focusing on the Great Plains for more than 40 years. Her
research interests include analysis of fauna from archaeological sites, use and identification of
lithic resources, rock art, and environmental adaptation of prehistoric cultures. She also has a
special interest in public education and outreach and has more than 20 years of experience
teaching classes and writing interpretive material on archaeology for a variety of venues and
groups of all ages. She currently works at the Office of the State Archaeologist in Iowa City.
Andrew D. Somerville is assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of World Lan-
guages and Cultures at Iowa State University. His research focuses on the archaeology of Meso-
america and uses bioarchaeological methods to explore past social–environmental dynamics.
David W. Peate is professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
at the University of Iowa. He is a geochemist whose research has a particular emphasis on the
MCJA 46_3 Waterman.indd 24MCJA 46_3 Waterman.indd 24 12/7/21 11:50 AM12/7/21 11:50 AM
MIDCONTINENTAL JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY 25
interpretation of trace element and radiogenic isotopes in a wide range of materials, from vol-
canic to archaeological.
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