Charlotte King’s world is full of mystery and intrigue, and she would have it no other way: it’s exactly the world she dreamed of as a child.
Charlotte is researching dietary changes due to environment factors, and is using state-of-the-art techniques to find her answers.
The mystery has culminated with research into ancient peoples found in northern Chile. “It's the perfect place, as it is one of the most arid on earth and so natural mummification has occurred. These people predate the Egyptian mummies by 2000 years,” she explains.
To undertake her research, Charlotte is using chemical isotopic tracing which until now has only been used in much smaller projects. Charlotte is using the isotopic tracing to provide her with comprehensive sets of data regarding the foods that these people ate.
“The isotopic analysis allows me to look at different bodily tissues, bones, and dental structures to a level of detail that will show whether certain foods have been consumed and whether there has been a change in consumption,” she adds.
By analysing this data, Charlotte will be able to study dietary habits to a level of sensitivity that wasn’t previously possible.
She will be able map any discovered dietary changes against changes in the environment, such as the introduction of agriculture and the possible demise of hunting and gathering, or the proliferation of marine gathering.
Climatic changes such as El Niño affected food sources for these people and the dietary changes that were made to cope with the changes can be identified. This information has the potential to inform modern day practice when planning for possible climatic catastrophes.
“My research will inform us how past people coped with environmental instability which we can extrapolate to present day,” Charlotte says.
“It is also able to pinpoint weaning ages in children, and we know that weaning has direct correlation to fertility which will help us understand the population growth and potential of the time,” Charlotte reasons.
Despite her work looking at ancient peoples and their societies, Charlotte is confident that what she discovers will have real relevance in today’s world.