Burial rituals and nitogen 15 - some answers

Fig. 8.2   Carbon and Nitrogen isotope data for the human and chicken remains from the seventeenth century cemetery, Vienna   at Wien-Csokorgasse  Source: Sykes


1. Can you think of reasons why high status people would have better fed chickens?

If chickens were prized for their strength and appearance then owners may have fed them high protein food to produce the best birds. Strength for cock fighting may have been a reason. You may be able to think of more.

2. Would you expect a modern corn fed chicken to have lower or higher nitrogen 15 levels than a chicken living centuries ago?

A corn fed chicken will eat less high trophic level protein than a chicken scratching in the soil for worms and  being fed food scraps.
Isotope ratio tests are now so quick that they can be used to check whether eggs are free range or not and to detect the feeding of chicken offal and other animal products to chickens that may be sold as corn fed or grain fed. 
GCMS technology and IRMS (Isotope ratio mass spectrometry) are becoming essential tools in fighting fraud in the food industry.

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Fig. 8.1 X-ray image of a spur on the tarsometatarsus bone of a cockerel (Ohio State University)