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Use of strontium isotope ratios in geolocation of Guatemalan population: Potential role in identification of remains.

Austin, Ryan; Fowler, Gillian; Croxton, Ruth; Evans, Jane; Thompson, David F.; Cooper, Jonathan J.; Perez Tanchez, Marco

Use of strontium isotope ratios in geolocation of Guatemalan population: Potential role in identification of remains. Thumbnail


Ryan Austin

Gillian Fowler

Ruth Croxton

Jane Evans

Jonathan J. Cooper

Marco Perez Tanchez


Within post-conflict communities, attempts to identify and repatriate unidentified and missing individuals poses a difficult task. As current forensic strategies commonly lack the capacity to provide region of origin assessments, forensic anthropologists/investigators are often unable to identify sources of DNA for kinship analysis. Using Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS), hair samples from 10 volunteers were used to assess the variation in strontium isotope ratios (87 Sr/86 Sr) between extant people in Guatemala City and Coban; with a leach (external) and digest (dietary) signal analyzed for each sample. A two-way anova demonstrated that the difference between 87 Sr/86 Sr of Guatemala City and Coban was statistically significant (F [1, 16] = 259.839, p?<?0.05), with no statistically significant differences observed between leach and digest 87 Sr/86 Sr (F [1,16] = 4.319, p = 0.054). Overall, individuals from Coban demonstrate 87 Sr/86 Sr comparable to previously recorded baseline values, demonstrating a minimal change in diet which is reflected in associated surveys. Volunteers from Guatemala City, however, show a marked shift in 87 Sr/86 Sr away from predicted values highlighting the potential influence of imported goods. The results here highlight the applicability of 87 Sr/86 Sr in hair to serve as a potential tool to support the identification of unknown individuals in Guatemala in a forensic context.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 19, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 9, 2022
Publication Date 2022-09
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Journal Journal of Forensic Sciences
Print ISSN 0022-1198
Publisher Wiley
Volume 67
Issue 5
Pages 1962-1970
Keywords forensic anthropology, geolocation, Guatemala, hair, human provenancing, region of origin, strontium isotopes, thermal ionization mass spectrometry, TIMS
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