Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions were measured on human and faunal bones, sampled from the Neolithic chambered tomb of Hazleton North, Gloucestershire, UK. The values were used to characterize the diet of the burial community as a whole. Humans were higher in δ15N by 4.5–5.0‰ relative to animal δ15N, from which we conclude that, based on currently accepted interpretations of isotopic data, the humans consumed a diet that was very high in meat or animal products (75% by weight of protein). Comparison was also possible between cortical and cancellous femoral collagen, with the results showing no significant difference for the adult humans. The sample of human isotopic values showed little variability, in contrast to that found in the domestic and wild animals from the site (including cattle, pigs, sheep and deer). We suggest that this is due to local environmental differences, rather than to environmental change over time or physiological differences between individual animals, and that this pattern is likely to hold for many other archaeological sites when analysed with sufficient statistical weight.
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Published online 21 January 2008 © 2010 University of Oxford