Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Michelle Hrivnyak

Second Advisor

Jacqueline Eng


Stable isotope analysis in bioarchaeology of human bone is generally used to reconstruct diet or migratory patterns of certain populations. Although this type of analysis is now standard practice, little research has been done regarding how cultural and mortuary practices may affect chemical composition of bone. This study aims to determine whether different simulated mortuary contexts have an effect on stable isotope levels in bone, using seven pig rib bone samples as proxy for human bone. In addition, macroscopic and microscopic observations are used to assess preservation and taphonomic processes. One of the samples served as a control, not being exposed to any simulated environment. The rest were placed in reconstructed rituals that align with examples of an assortment of varied mortuary rites performed by different cultures of the past and present. These samples were left in the environments for a minimum of six months to account for all seasonal changes and temperature fluctuation needed to replicate an environment. This study has significant implications in the use of isotopic analysis in both bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology because it illuminates relatively understudied topics in the relationship between bone preservation and isotopic signatures, as related to cultural behavior, and mortuary rituals more specifically.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

ThesisDefense.Hallahan.2024.pdf (5109 kB)
Defense Presentation