Paleodietary analysis of the sacrificial victims from the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, Teotihuacan

Kristin L. Nado, Natalya Zolotova, Kelly Knudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The consumption of different types and quantities of food frequently serves as a practice that expresses and reinforces social distinctions among individuals within complex societies. This study explores the dietary behavior of probable sacrificial victims interred within the offering complex underlying the Feathered Serpent Pyramid as a line of evidence concerning the identities and life experiences of individuals selected for inclusion within one of Teotihuacan’s public monuments. Stable carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotope values from rib samples of 12 individuals within the Feathered Serpent Pyramid complex were compared with those of 14 individuals interred in residential contexts within the city. Results provide new information concerning daily subsistence at Classic period Teotihuacan (ca. A.D. 200–600) and highlight the dietary distinctiveness of individuals interred within the Feathered Serpent Pyramid as compared to the general residential population of the site, particularly in terms of the carbon isotope composition of protein sources consumed by a number of the sacrificial victims. Oxygen isotope analysis suggests that most individuals from the Feathered Serpent Pyramid resided within the local Teotihuacan area during the years immediately prior to their deaths, indicating that the unique dietary pattern seen in stable carbon isotope values cannot be attributed to nonlocal residence prior to sacrifice. Rather, these dietary differences may suggest that the group of individuals selected for interment within the Feathered Serpent Pyramid offering complex maintained a distinctive social or economic identity as compared to the rest of the Teotihuacan population during their lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-132
Number of pages16
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Carbon isotopes
  • Mexico
  • Nitrogen isotopes
  • Oxygen isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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