March 20, 2009

Teeth tell tales of Columbus crew

Crew members Christopher Columbus left behind after his second voyage to the Americas are telling tales of their past, U.S. researchers said.

A team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is examining the teeth from three sets of remains excavated nearly 20 years ago from the site of La Isabela -- the town Columbus founded in the Dominican Republic more than 500 years ago.

Researchers said carbon isotope ratios provide evidence of diet at the time a child's adult teeth emerge, oxygen isotopes provide information about water consumption and geography, and strontium isotopes provide a signature of where someone lived as a child.

The three individuals believed to be former crew members have very different carbon isotope profiles than other remains found at the site. The three men, who were under age 40 when they died, also exhibit evidence of scurvy, a common affliction of 15th century sailors, the report said.