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Section 1 Introduction
Chapter 1: Introduction
 Part 1
 Part 2
 Part 3
Chapter 2: The Development of Zooarchaeology
 Part 1
 Part 2
 Part 3
Chapter 3: A Perspective on Zooarchaeological Analysis
 Part 1
 Part 2
 Part 3
References [for entire book manuscript]
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Part One
For over two centuries, bones, teeth, shells, and other animal remains have been
central evidence in research on the earth's past, and on the history of humans and their
ancestors. Physical properties of such animal remains have remained uniform over the
span of hominid existence, and they can thus equally well shed light on carnivorous
habits of Pliocene hominids at Olduvai Gorge or inequalities of diet among the
inhabitants of Thomas Jefferson's plantation at Monticello. Despite faunal remains' time-
honored role in investigating the human past, the last thirty years have seen an
remarkable expansion of the range of issues that faunal materials, especially bones and
teeth, have been used to address. The literature in zooarchaeology is growing at such a
rate that even specialists have difficulty keeping pace. Zooarchaeologists are currently
debating what kinds of information faunal remains can provide, how much, and how
reliably, as well as which analytic methods are appropriate for analyzing them. Many of
the most polarized of recent discussions in human origins research, as well as in the
archaeology of later peoples, has been over the methods applied faunal analyses,
rather than simply over the conclusions drawn from them.
This recent surge of productivity in zooarchaeology results from archaeologists literally
taking faunal analysis into their own hands. It was not until the late 1960s that people
trained in archaeology acquired the skills necessary to work with fauna themselves,
replacing specialists in zoology and paleontology as the primary analysts of
archaeological faunal samples. As they did, they redefined the ways bones, teeth, and
other faunal remains, placing greater emphasis on what they could say about ancient
humans and their activities.
Some of the breakthroughs in zooarchaeological research have been technological. For
example, stable isotope analyses of human and nonhuman bones (Price 1989, Price, et
al. 1985, Sillen and Kavanagh 1982, Van der Merwe and Vogel 1978) have permitted
new refinements in the study of diet and resource use. Scanning electron microscopy,
another major technological advance in faunal analysis another major technological
advance in faunal analysis, has defined "signatures" of non-human versus human bone
processors (Potts and Shipman 1981, Shipman 1981a). However, many of the most
exciting developments in zooarchaeology have not stemmed from innovative
technological applications. Instead, they were assertions that evidence long perceptible
in faunal assemblages can testify to aspects of human behavior hitherto not deemed
It is true that studying faunal remains requires knowledge drawn from zoology and
paleontology, but using them to capture evidence of past human choices and actions
calls for a unique range of supplemental strategies. Like paleoethnobotany (Pearsall
1989, Piperno 1988), archaeological faunal analysis combines natural historic methods
with approaches drawn from anthropology and other social sciences. The term
"zooarchaeology" (Olsen 1971) is thus an apt description for faunal analysis to address
archaeological questions.
For Whom is this Book Intended?
This book is intended both for students and for a broad range of interested professional
archaeologists, both within and outside of academic and museum settings. In the early
1990s, I conducted a survey of subscribers to the Zooarchaeological Research News,
(ZRN ) a highly informative newsletter reporting on new studies, publications, and
conferences (Gifford-Gonzalez 1993, Gifford-Gonzalez 1994). At the time, ZRN was
taken by 146 non-institutional subscribers in North America, and an impressive eighty-
five percent of those contacted responded to the survey. About a third of subscribers
worked in government or cultural resource management, and the balance were based in
outside universities and museums. Some were students, but many were earning a living
at least in part by analyzing animal remains and subscribed to keep up with the
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of subscribers based in the U. S. and Canada
described themselves as North Americanists, dealing with either prehistoric Native
American sites or historic sites created by a diversity of immigrants and native peoples.
Only five percent of ZRN respondents characterized themselves as working on pre-
modern hominids. The latter finding gave me cause for reflection on a seeming
disjunction between those who do most of the mainstream publication and those who do
most of the practice. If one were to read only the Journals of Archaeological Science,
Anthropological Archaeology, and zooarchaeological books written since 1970, one
might conclude that most zooarchaeologists were interested in the earliest African
hominids, in archaic Homo sapiens , and in late palaeolithic hunters of Africa, Eurasia,
and the Americas. Researchers with these interests have been most frequently
represented in print and have contributed immensely to zooarchaeological theory and
method. Some of these authors may not subscribe to ZRN. However, the
preponderance of zooarchaeological researchers in North America, the English-
speaking world, are not working on paleoanthropological or even Paleoindian topics.
These facts led me to ask to three questions. First, why has the cutting edge of
zooarchaeological method and theory been nearly always in the hands of the
paleoanthropological and Paleoindian researchers? Second, are methodological
advances made these areas transferable to studies of anatomically modern peoples,
including in the historic period? If so, has this information transfer actually taken place?
I think the answer to the first question is that researchers working with the sparse
archaeological evidence typical of earlier Pleistocene, and even Paleoindian, sites tend
to try to wrest every last scrap of information from their materials, often ingeniously,
sometimes over-ambitiously.
In response to the second question, whether these findings be useful in other, later
settings, I can vouch from personal experience that it is so. I have spent the last 30
years researching the subsistence choices and environmental context of Africans who
lived only a few millennia ago. I have found the paleoanthropological debates and
findings on bone modification and taphonomy to be invaluable aids to my research.
Now, as I begin working in the U.S. Southwest on historic period materials, I find this to
be even more true, and producing intriguing results, of which I will discuss later in this
Finally, with regard to the final question, has there generally been enough crossing-over
of these findings into research on later periods, I think this has not been the case to
anywhere near the degree that it should. There is a need to link the recent literature to
the research agendas of people who deal with later prehistoric or historic faunas. Why
this has been the case might take another book to explain. The esoteric nature of some
of the literature, and the mutual parochial attitudes of all parties -- an unwillingness to
read across the literature produced by other people working on other periods and
problems -- surely has contributed.
This book is attempt to bridge between recent developments in zooarchaeology of older
time spans and that practiced by the majority of archaeological faunal analysts. It seeks
to condense and describe the last three decades' work in zooarchaeological and
taphonomic research and to show its points of relevance to the archaeology of recent as
well as very ancient humans. This book is thus intended for people who may or may not
be academically placed, and who want to be informed of the overall features of a swiftly
changing field. It is also hopefully useful to archaeology students interested in what one
can learn from animal remains, especially, bones and teeth, and who may dream of
even further expanding the scope of zooarchaeology in their lifetimes.

Part Two
Scope and Focus of the Book
The uses to which animal remains from archaeological sites are put today may be
grouped as follows:
1. To establish age of deposits (chronology)
2. To reconstruct paleoenvironment and paleoecological relations.
3. To reconstruct human diet and behavior.
These three areas were in fact all under investigation in the 18th and 19th century
faunal analyses, some in ways that critically influenced opinions about human antiquity
and gave rise to archaeology as a discrete discipline. Since methods for reconstructing
human diet and behavior have undergone the greatest growth over the last thirty years,
most of this text will deal with the third area
This book deal with what I know best: vertebrate zooarchaeology, and within that,
analysis of mammalian bones and teeth. A literature on both identification and analysis
of fish from archaeological sites exists (Brinkhuizen and Clason. 1986, Casteel 1976)
(Wheeler and Jones 1989), as does that for birds (Carey 1982, Dawson 1969, Howard
1929). Cheryl Claassen's work (Claassen 1998) book on analysis of molluscan remains
offers a fine theoretical overview.
This book's main focus is archaeological faunal analysis as practiced in Canada and the
United States, with some emphasis on its practice in Britain and other parts of the
English-speaking world. This linguistic grouping forms a logical unit, not only because of
ease of communication in a common language but also because of the shared
perspectives noted earlier. From my own experience as a non-Americanist researching
and teaching overseas, I am aware of the productive work of and linkages among
zooarchaeologists in the Americas and their counterparts in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
These will be mentioned briefly as relevant.
This text is not a guide to identification. Many visual guides to faunal identification exist,
including those of (Brown and Gustafson 1979, Gilbert 1973, 1980, Gilbert, et al. 1981,
Lawrence 1951, Olsen 1960, 1968, 1972a, 1972b, 1973, Pacheco Torres, et al. 1986,
Parmalee 1985, Schmid 1972, Walker 1985) Additionally, textbooks of veterinary
anatomy (Barone 1976, Sisson and Grossman 1975) can provide valuable information
on the relation of soft tissues to bone, as well as details of domestic animal osteology.
Neither is this book a "how-to" manual. Instead it focuses on reviews the considerations
that underlie decisions about identifying, recording, and quantifying various classes of
zooarchaeological data. Most of us know that as no two sites are alike, and digging
them according to a rote formula rather than in consideration of their special aspects
can spell irredeemable loss of data. So, too, no two faunal assemblages are identical,
nor are the conditions under which a zooarchaeologist must do a specific analysis.
Thus, a knowledge base that permits one to formulate a systematic but appropriate
research plan is more useful than any formally prescribed "program."
Moreover, zooarchaeology is currently in a state of rapid theoretical and methodological
development, some of the central issues discussed in this text may be modified or
dispensed by new research within a few years. Because of these factors, I deem it more
useful to review factors that must be taken into account at various stages of analysis,
rather than pushing my own or anyone else's detailed formula for archaeological faunal
analysis. This is not to say that we don't need standardization of classification and
scrupulous attention to conservation and documentation. I simply mean that, at higher
levels of research design, there must be the flexibility that no one-size-fits-all approach
can give. If pressed for the proper procedure for working with fauna, I'd say,
Persons familiar with the zooarchaeological literature may well ask how this book differs
from my colleague R. Lee Lyman's (Lyman 1994) recent book, Vertebrate Taphonomy.
This is a fair question, especially since Lyman and I have similar theoretical and
methodological perspectives. I believe the fundamental difference between our books is
not orientation but focus. I agree with Lyman (1994:33) that hominid modifications to the
remains of animals fall under the larger rubric of taphonomic effects, and that there is no
a priori reason to set human effects apart from the impacts of all the other agents that
can leave their marks on bone, shell, or other organic remains. This book, narrows the
focus from taphonomy as a whole to the practice of zooarchaeology because most
archaeologists, including those who work with animal remains, ultimately want to study
human behavior and its context. From this perspective, the main questions to be
addressed in this book are: what can animal remains from archaeological contexts tell
us about the people who manipulated them or about the environmental context in which
those people lived?
This does not mean that the effects of other agents -- carnivores, rodents, wind, rain,
floods, sunlight, falling rocks -- will be ignored. The zooarchaeologist's job is to draw as
much information as possible from faunal materials. Part of this process involves
distinguishing evidence of the action of various forces, including non-human ones, on
animal remains. Specifying the effects of non-human agents on a sample does not stem
from the analytic aim of correcting for their effects, or "unbiasing" the sample. As will be
discussed in Chapter Three, this is an unrealistic goal. Rather, it stems from the view
that all evidence of pre- and post-mortem agency in archaeological faunal samples tells
us something about the past. A substantial part of this book will therefore deal with
recognizing the traces of the action of non-human bone-modifiers, and the implications
of their effects for zooarchaeological analysis.
Likewise, it is fair to ask how this book differs from my colleagues Betsy Reitz's and
Elizabeth Wing's recent compendium entitled, Zooarchaeology (Reitz and Wing 1999).
In that book, as in this one , the focus is on humans and their interactions with animals,
as testified to by zooarchaeological materials. I believe my approach overlaps
considerably with that of Reitz and Wing, because we work with similar methods and
techniques and approach similar problems. If I were to enumerate some differences, I
would say that I will devote much less time to invertebrates, relatively less time to laying
out ecological theory and basic comparative anatomy, and relatively more to presenting
an epistemological framework in which to place and coordinate different kinds of
zooarchaeological knowledge and practice. Thus, I believe that our respective books
are largely complementary.
This is a methodologically focused book. It discusses the logic of zooarchaeological
method, including uniformitarianism, the potential and limits of analogy, how one's
analytic categories, sorting choices, quantification and statistical analysis, and other
analytic choices can ultimately affect inferences. Methods, however, are developed
within theoretical perspectives, explicit or implicit, and this text will also explore
theoretical perspectives that stand behind the methods examined.
It is fair to ask from what theoretical position I have written a methodologically focused
book. The answer to that question is complex, breaking down into at least two parts,
one linked to my view of the archaeological project in general, the other involving the
specific theoretical viewpoints I bring to my own research in zooarchaeology. Let me
deal with each in turn.
First, much of my published work could be classed as "methodological" rather than
"theoretical," if one believes that conceptual life in archaeology can be divided into
distinct realms of between "high" or general theory, lower (middle-range or interpretive
theory), methods on a lower rung, and, finally, techniques (Kluckhohn 1940). I have
chosen to spend much time working through archaeological reasoning, analogy, and
uniformitarian assumptions. These are concerns that David Clarke (Clarke 1979) called
"archaeological metaphysics," that is, how do archaeologists reason, why do we feel
that certain steps in reasoning are sound? Why and how are some interpretations or
scenarios more plausible than others? How do we check ourselves? Such issues, I
believe, have been at the core of a number of the debates in the last thirty years'
zooarchaeological literature. Chapter 3 of this book deals with some of these issues
more fully.
With relation to theory, it is clear when one studies past and present arguments in
archaeology that, despite the paradigm shifts that seem to come in English-speaking
circles every three decades, some kinds of knowledge are cumulative and enduring.
This lasting knowledge entails both theory and practice and is so fundamental that we
archaeologists usually don't even attend to its unique qualities. This type of knowledge
differs somewhat in emphasis from the archaeological "craft" knowledge discussed by
Shanks and McGuire (Shanks and McGuire 1996), but these fields overlap. For
example, the principles and practices of stratigraphy, passed down to us from 18th
century field geologists, and the more recent archaeological applications of radiometric
dating, are such enduring components of archaeological knowledge and practice.
These lasting knowledge fields appear to stem from specifiable uniformitarian relations
and to link to other areas of scientific research that continue to contribute new and
useful refinements over time (e. g. AMS versus conventional radiocarbon dating). They
build upon earlier understandings in a logical way, and they are cornerstones of
archaeological reasoning, as both examples noted above aid ordering objects and sites
in time, a fundamental archaeological operation. They survive from one archaeological
paradigm shift to the next and are accepted as valid and may be used by people with
disparate theoretical agendas. For example, prehistorians continue to debate how best
to understand the role of Stonehenge among the prehistoric groups who built and used
it, but all will include radiometric dates and stratigraphic reasoning as unambiguous
components in their arguments.
Zooarchaeology is not yet on equal footing with the examples cited above. Yet I believe
it is similar to them and in the process of developing. Like them, it focuses on materials
with many uniformitarian properties, both in circumstances under which humans,
animals, plants, and geological processes interact with those materials and in the range
of evidence produced by those interactions. Zooarchaeology is linked to anatomy,
physiology, zoology, ecology, paleontology, veterinary and nutritional science, in
ongoing and fruitful ways. Based on this view of zooarchaeology as an emerging field of
theory and practice, I seek to lay out here some of its fundamental building blocks as it
has developed in the English-speaking tradition of North America and in some other
parts of the world. Thus, I hope this book will, like a handbook on stratigraphic
documentation and analysis, prove useful to students and researchers engaged in a
range of investigations from a variety of theoretical perspectives.
To take up the second question about theory mentioned before, what "general theory"
(following Binford 1977) do I use when thinking about my zooarchaeological data? For
about twenty-five years, I have been analyzing faunas from East African sites with some
of the earliest pastoral livestock in the region (Gifford-Gonzalez 1998a, Gifford-
Gonzalez 1998b, Gifford-Gonzalez 2000). I have read widely about and spent time in
the field with modern pastoralists. This literature is written from a variety of theoretical
perspectives, which I have assessed for their usefulness and fit with the way I think the
world works. I have also read a good deal of ecology and evolutionary biology.
I currently find two theoretical perspectives useful in thinking about the issues with
which I am most concerned: evolutionary-ecological (including behavioral ecological)
theory, which sees human behavior over the long term as making sense in evolutionary
terms, and structural marxist theory, which focuses on humans' relations of resource
control and acquisition, of production and distribution on a shorter-term time scale. My
own experience forces me to view pastoral stock owners in the context of regional
ecosystems and the non-negotiable demands that weather and the welfare of herd
animals make on them. Likewise, my personal experience compels me to see
pastoralists as participating in social, economic, and ideological systems that both
mediate and clash with environmental trends, and which affect their choices in
managing their livestock, households, and social relations.
Sometimes these rather disparate theoretical worlds are remarkably compatible, since
behavioral ecology and marxist paradigms share a fundamentally economic approach.
Both have an concern with the costs and benefits of effort exerted by humans in
achieving goals within a social milieu -- but in very different ways and with somewhat
different currencies. Sometimes the two paradigms grate against each other in
troublesome but interesting ways. This book will not pursue these aspects of theoretical
consonance and dissonance. However, readers will note that my perspective is one in
which "production" be both an ecological and a social concept, that people and animals
fit into both conceptual worlds, and that animal remains might "make sense" in both as
Moreover, readers should be aware that I do not consider contradictions emerging from
juxtaposition of these two frames of reference (Binford 1987) are just cause for
discarding one in favor of the other. In fact, such contradictions are, at least for now, all
the more motivation to continue working with both paradigms. As regards humans,
theory is not something we archaeologists, with our unique time perspective and
samples, should expect to get "off the shelf" from another discipline. To treat any
imported body of theory as completely functional from the outset or, worse, as divine
revelation, does a disservice to the distinctiveness of our own discipline and excuses us
from the work of critically evaluating the terms and uses of theory in the context of our
own practices.
It may be helpful to elaborate a bit on the concept of a framework noted earlier in
discussing how this book differs from that of Reitz and Wing, and why I have found it
important. In 1991, I wrote an article which I hoped would clarify what I saw as some
then-murky issues in assigning agency to zooarchaeological traces (Gifford-Gonzalez
1991a). I found it helpful to me in my own thinking to move systematically from the
concrete individual specimen with its condition, surface modifications, and so forth out
to the fullest kind of contextual reconstruction one might hope to make of past human
life, including social relations and ecological relations. I argued that bones were not
enough to get us to the higher levels of inferences, that, for a variety of philosophically
grounded reasons one always had to play off the significant information derived from
faunal assemblages against other types of archaeological and contextual data. In the
process, I proposed a schematic framework (Gifford-Gonzalez 1991: Figure 2) with
which to approach zooarchaeological materials and the inferences we wish to draw from
them. That orientation organizes this book and will be discussed in detail in Chapter
What is relevant here is that I believe the strength of such an approach is that it allows
us to fit new information &endash; whether we gather it ourselves or derive it from
another researcher's efforts, into an intelligible and enduring intellectual structure. I
believe that novel discoveries meriting detailed attention today soon become folded into
the methodology of scientific practice as "givens." Likewise, many of specific
controversies current in zooarchaeology will be passé even by the time this book is
actually published. Therefore, the most important contribution a book like this can make
is to provide a structure for organizing knowledge, both old and new, both in terms of
enabling an understanding of the practical significance of a newly discovered finding
and in terms of facilitating systematic research using it and other resources in a
coordinated way. My hope is that this book will provide students of zooarchaeology with
such a framework, that will be helpful to them long after most of the hot topics of the text
are old news.

Part Three
Some Basic Definitions
Zooarchaeology, defined as the study of animal remains to elucidate archaeological
questions (Olsen 1971), is one of several disciplines that study faunal remains.
Zoologists study living organisms, but they sometimes use shells, skins, teeth, and
bones to assess the age, sex, health status, and taxonomic relationships of individuals,
species and regional populations. Paleontologists study the preserved remains of
ancient animals to learn more about their evolution, systematics, and ancient life
relationships. Zooarchaeologists study faunal remains from deposits created by humans
at some time in the past, prehistoric or historic. In fact, archaeologists working with
animal remains have labeled themselves with a variety of names, including
archaeological faunal analysts, archaeozoologists.
When I began to study animal remains from the standpoint of an archaeologist in the
early 1970s, we called this kind of work "faunal analysis" or "archaeological faunal
analysis." It is still an accurate term. I have chosen to use the term zooarchaeology
throughout this book for a two of reasons. It lends itself more gracefully to use in
adjective and adverb forms, and it expresses well the specific type of faunal research
we do: archaeology using animal remains.
Persons preferring the label "zooarchaeologist" tend to be concerned primarily with
what animal remains say about humans' and other agents' interactions with them. They
may spend considerable time describing patterns of bone breakage, cut marks, and
other such modifications and comparing these to remains recovered from other sites.
Many are less concerned with details of the systematics of the animal species in
archaeological deposits and see themselves primarily as archaeologists who happen to
use animal remains as a way of researching human adaptation and history. They
probably have an academic training in archaeology and may have supplemental
background in zoology or paleontology. Most of the researchers cited in subsequent
chapters of this text fall into this category.
Other researchers who work with archaeological faunas are in fact happier with the term
archaeozoologist. Archaeozoologists tend to be more interested in the evolutionary and
ecological status of animals included in archaeological sites, and generally less
concerned with what bones can tell us about details of human behavior and social
relations. They focus on reading the history of certain species, such as wild cattle, from
their remains in Pleistocene and Holocene sites, the morphological transitions from wild
to domestic forms, and the regional variability of ancient domesticates.
Persons more comfortable with the title "archaeozoologist" often received their primary
training in the life sciences and only secondarily in archaeology. They tend to
emphasize archaeological assemblages as local samples of species, to be compared to
other archaeological samples through detailed metrical and morphological analyses.
Human modifications to bones as butchery marks, breakage, and evidence of cooking
are not heavily emphasized (Bökönyi 1984, von den Driesch and Boessneck 1975), nor
are detailed reconstructions of human behavior. Thus, archaeozoologists aim more
toward constructing the zoology of ancient faunas.
Although it oversimplifies a complex situation, most North Americans dealing with
archaeological faunas would probably, if pressed, call themselves out as
zooarchaeologists, most continental Europeans would probably call themselves
archaeozoologists, and British researchers might be evenly divided between the two
labels. (Many, preferring to leave detailed taxonomies for their objects of study, are
content with the label "faunal analyst."). The journal Archaeozoologia published in
Grenoble, France, reflecting the dominant perspectives in Continental Europe. Pioneer
archaeozoological researchers in Continental European obtained their training in
zoology, paleontology, and veterinary sciences, began their archaeological faunal
analyses around the end of World War II, and trained students into the 1980s. They
include the late Joachim Boessneck (Boessneck 1969, von den Driesch and Boessneck
1975), the late Sandor Bökönyi (Bökönyi 1984); the late Elisabeth Schmid (Schmid
1972), Anneke Clason (Clason 1991, Clason and van Es 1993, Lasker 1976), the late
Hans-Peter Uerpmann (Uerpmann 1973, 1978), Pierre Ducos (Ducos 1968), and
Notable exceptions to the foregoing dichotomies exist, since some U. S. researchers
have engage in both kinds of work, including George Frison and his students (Frison
1974, 1978, Frison and Todd 1987), Melinda Zeder (Zeder 1984, 1991, Zeder and Arter
1994), Jane Wheeler(Wheeler 1982), and Donald Grayson (Grayson 1988), and some
European faunal analysts focus more on reconstructing behavior (Grayson and Delpech
1994), often in collaboration with North American researchers. Others have questioned
the underlying assumptions of "animals-first" analyses (Legge 1978). Moreover, with
time, younger researchers on all continents are converging more in their interests, and I
expect that the dichotomies true in the late 20th century will not hold up so well in the
early 21st.
Returning to terms that will be commonly used in this book, it is sometimes useful to
refer to all studies of animal remains, regardless of goals or the disciplinary grounding of
the practitioners. In this book, I will use faunal studies or faunal analysis, to signify any
research with animal remains, whether undertaken by zoologists, paleontologists,
physical anthropologists, or archaeologists, regardless of aims. Mainly to have a word
can readily be used as an adjective, I will use the term archaeofauna to refer to the
faunal remains recovered from archaeological sites. This use follows Grayson (Grayson
1984) and is less cumbersome than phrases like "archaeological faunal remains." I will
use this term for historic archaeological faunas as well as more ancient prehistoric
samples, even though it may not sit so comfortably in a semantic sense at Monticello as
it does as Olduvai.
The term taphonomy has already been used in this chapter and requires some further
definition. This began as a subfield of paleontology. This term is derived from the Greek
words for burial (taphos) and rules or system (nomos). It was coined by Soviet
paleontologist I. A. Efremov (Efremov 1940) to describe studying animal remains to
elucidate their circumstances of deposition, or better define the agencies that modified
them before deposition. Over the same span as Efremov, other paleontological
researchers were also studying the transition of animal remains from death to
depositional context (Weigelt 1989), but the term coined by Efremov subsumes their
work. The field became much more salient to paleontological practice in the 1950s and
1960s, as researchers developed more ambitious goals of paleoecological
reconstructions (Clark and Kietzke 1967, Olson 1966, Olson 1971, Olson 1980,
Voorhies 1969). For a review of the taphonomic literature, see Gifford (Gifford 1981),
Behrensmeyer and Kidwell (Behrensmeyer and Kidwell 1984), and Lyman (1994:12-40).
Considerable overlap exists among concepts and analytic methods in vertebrate
taphonomy and contemporary zooarchaeology. In fact, researchers in each area
regularly communicate and engage in research that blurs the boundaries of the fields.
As noted earlier, from a paleontological taphonomist's point of view, human
modifications to animal remains, and human actions that influence their burial, are just
another array of forces affecting them. From the point of view of an archaeologist,
taphonomic analyses are essential to distinguish between traces of human action and
those of other creatures or natural forces that can affect animal remains. Taphonomic
research will therefore be prominently featured in this book.
The next chapter considers the history of zooarchaeology, focusing especially on North
America, to gain a better understanding of the different strands of interest and activities
that make up current debates. Chapter Three presents a perspective on
zooarchaeological analysis, discussing uniformitarianism and zooarchaeology, exploring
in detail the reasons why faunal remains can be used so widely in time and space to
infer climate, season, age of an animal, its sex and physiological condition, and why we
can so readily diagnose cut marks, the gnaw marks of carnivores and rodents, and
other impacts on bones. It will deal with the limits as well as the extent of uniformitarian
Before turning to a single-minded examination of faunal remains, it is necessary to
acknowledge the importance of other types of evidence for human subsistence and
behavior. Animals remains are only one line of evidence on human environment and
subsistence. The last twenty-five years of anthropological research on people who
gather and hunt have shown the importance of plant foods even in their diets, to say
nothing of in the lives of subsistence farmers or members of horizontally and vertically
integrated complex societies. Thus, paleoethnobotany has equal importance as
zooarchaeology in research on human diet and resource use. Isotopic analyses of
human bone can provide a wealth of specific dietary information to complement faunal
and botanical evidence from archaeological contexts. Ultimately, all biological data are
of limited use if not juxtaposed with artifactual, architectural, and settlement information,
within a well-reasoned analytic framework, a point discussed further in Chapter Three.

Part One
Faunal Analysis and the History of Archaeology
Two cases from the beginnings of archaeology show the central role that animal
remains have played in defining questions and providing answers about ancient
humans, as noted in Chapter One. In 1797, deep in the clay deposits dug for making
bricks near the town of Hoxne, in Suffolk, English antiquarian John Frere encountered
stones he believed showed human working, lying below sea shells and bones of
animals which had never lived during documented times in England. The sea shells and
other "marine substances" convinced him that the sea had once encroached upon this
place, after the stone implements had been deposited. The bones compelled Frere to
speculate about human existence beyond the span conventionally allotted to human
history in his day. Referring to their depth and to their position below "extraordinary
bones," including a "jawbone of enormous size," and said that the disposition of the
stone tools tempt us, "o refer them to a very remote period indeed; even beyond that of
the present world" (Frere 1797 in Heizer 1962:70-71). Frere's find was one of many in
the late 18th and early 19th centuries in England, France, Belgium, and Germany that
challenged commonly held models of human origins and antiquity (Daniel 1976;
Grayson 1983).
The bones encountered in such sites raised problems because, by the end of the 18th
century, they and their stratigraphic situation testified so compellingly to interested
scholars. By this time, it was widely accepted among antiquarians that Europe had once
been populated by animal species unknown in documented times. By the time Charles
Lyell published his synthesis of earth history in the early 1830s (Lyell 1830), many also
accepted that the Pleistocene epoch was one of glacial ages, populated by cold-loving
mammals. However, humans were thought to have only appeared in the ensuing
Holocene epoch. This scenario sat comfortably with those who wished to retain the
Judaeo-Christian story of the special creation of humans, as well as with scholars less
inclined to take the biblical story so literally. Human artifacts -- and in some cases,
human bones -- in association with glacial faunas clearly challenged this model
(Grayson 1983).
By the late 18th century as well, it seemed natural to scholars to interpret the
stratigraphic context of the finds as evidence of age and ancient environment and the
associated bones as reflections of ancient environments. By then, these were standard
and uncontroversial geological and paleontological inferences and understandings of
objects in the earth.
The fundamental question came down to whether humans coexisted with other species
in the Pleistocene epoch. Bones and stratigraphy, which had given rise to the
controversy, were also seen as key evidence in settling it. In 1857, the Royal Society of
Great Britain commissioned a formal attempt to determine whether stone tools and
bones of extinct animals were truly to be understood as contemporaneously deposited.
A group of prominent geologists and antiquaries supervised a controlled excavation of a
limestone cave at Windmill Hill, overlooking the harbor town of Torquay, in southwestern
England (Daniel 1976). The cave was chosen because a thick limestone deposit overlay
and effectively sealed older deposits. Because of this, it was thought unlikely that more
recently made stone artifacts could have penetrated into deeper, bone-bearing layers.
The limestone layer was breached, and artifacts we now refer to the Upper Palaeolithic
were found together with bones of hyenas, reindeer, and other Ice Age fauna. The
combination of stratigraphic context and extinct fauna were considered by the
researchers to be conclusive proof that humans lived in the Pleistocene (Heizer 1962).
Other carefully controlled checks of sites in France and elsewhere produced similarly
compelling evidence for the Pleistocene existence of humans (Grayson 1983) These
two cases reveal that fauna can both serve to present interpretive challenges to
investigators of the human past, and function to resolve the issues they and other
archaeological materials raise.
In the 1860s, these findings and the paradigmatic changes caused by acceptance of
Darwin's and Wallace's theory of organic evolution gave rise to the new and rapidly
professionalizing practice of prehistoric archaeology. Excavations were explicitly aimed
at recovering evidence of very early -- pre-historic -- humans, and vertebrate remains
played a major role in defining the chronology and environmental setting of Pleistocene
sites. In fact, the first chronological ordering of such ancient sites was explicitly faunal,
with Gabriel Lartet's "Age of Cave Bears," "Age of Rhinoceros," "Age of Reindeer"
sequence for southwestern France (Lartet and Christy 1865-1875).
Regional Traditions in Archaeological Faunal Analysis
The different approaches of North American, British, and continental European
researchers to faunal analysis noted in Chapter One are grounded in divergent
academic backgrounds and perspectives. In the United States, Canada, and Australia,
prehistoric archaeology is usually housed within departments of anthropology. In Britain
and on the European continent, as well as in Asia and Africa, prehistoric archaeology is
not normally allied with anthropology. This distinction has strongly influenced the course
and tone of archaeological faunal studies in these regions.
In North America and Australia, the connection between ethnography and the
archaeological study of the continent was apparent to early academic researchers.
Aboriginal peoples still existed when academic departments dealing with regional
archaeological materials were established in governments and universities, and
researchers considered these aboriginal peoples to be descendants of those who
created the archaeological sites. In some places and at some times, establishing the
link between living aboriginal peoples and archaeological remains became part of a
political agenda of anthropology (e.g. Boas 1940, Trigger 1989). Similar linkages
between ethnology and archaeology were also forged in other, Spanish-speaking
nations of the Americas such as Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Chile. In many such
contexts, however, the academic curriculum incorporated more historical analysis than
did anthropological archaeology in English-speaking countries (Lorenzo 1981).
Since the 1920s, North American archaeology has been practiced within departments of
anthropology. Even when North American archaeologists have worked beyond their
national borders, they have taken with them a perspective colored by their position in
anthropology. Until the late 1960s, archaeology was seen as a dependent, theory-
receiving subdiscipline of ethnology, or cultural anthropology (Willey and Sabloff 1983).
As the result of their training, North American archaeologists have been more inclined to
look for "the Indian behind the arrowhead," that is, to look for what archaeological
remains can say about ancient lifeways, including social relations, than their British or
Continental peers. Because old-style ethnographies in the North American tradition
emphasized the role of material culture in the everyday and ritual lives of aboriginal
peoples, archaeologists could find a reasonable link between the Boasian view of
cultural practice and their own work. This could lead archaeologists to believe that
social and cultural information was implicit in archaeological remains, if only it could be
accessed. This theme was first explicitly articulated by Walter Taylor (Taylor 1948) and
then restated with much conviction by the "new archaeologists" of the 1960s (Binford
1962). However, it is implicit in earlier discussions of Southwestern pottery traditions
(Kidder 1917, 1927).
At some point in their training, North American archaeologists also had to grapple with
the term "culture" as something more than simply a classificatory term. They have had
to sort through the contesting definitions and connections of the word in anthropological
theory. Some may even have made a considered decision about which of these many
definitions suits archaeological practice better than others. Until recently, British and
European archaeologists had no occasion to read the anthropological literature on the
relation of the individual to cultural norms, social action, ethnic identity, the dynamics of
cultural and social change, and other aspects of cultural theory. Although rare
exceptions like Grahame Clark (Clark 1953) existed, archaeological training in Britain
did not lead students toward ethnography and ethnology.
In Britain and on the Continent, the link between ethnology and prehistoric archaeology
seemed less "natural." The ethnographic literature was being generated overseas in
colonized areas. Archaeology was at first locally focused on Europe, actually on
charting the course of development of modern European nations through a narrative
grounded in the dim prehistoric past (Trigger 1989). In the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, as archaeological research became institutionalized, a distinction was often
drawn between the histories of less developed, "backwards" colonized peoples and that
of the "advanced" cultures of Europe. Some early popularizers of archaeology did cite
examples from ethnographic cases of "savages" to flesh out the stages of human
progress, as read from the European archaeological record (Avebury 1865, Mortillet
1897). However, neither then nor later was a systematic study of ethnography and
ethnological theory developed from anthropological cases, brought to bear in
interpreting archaeological materials.
In France and Central Europe, prehistoric archaeology has until quite recently been
more closely allied to geology and paleontology than to history or the social sciences, a
situation that has influenced archaeological interpretations down to the present
(Audouze and Leroi-Gourhan 1979; Sackett 1968, 1978). Faunal remains from
archaeological deposits were seen primarily as chronological and environmental
indicators. Ancient economic and social relations were not considered to be readily
accessible to study through archaeological materials. Concepts about the mental and
social capacities of ancient hominids, and even of earlier members of our species are
either not articulated at all or emphasize stasis and predictable levels of complexity,
depending upon the evolutionary stage of development.
Some notable exceptions to the general Continental pattern do exist. In Scandinavia, a
more practically-oriented school of archaeological interpretation developed early in the
19th century. Artifacts and sites were studied for what they could tell about ancient
environment and human behavior, rather than simply as representatives of a stage of
progressive development (Gråslund 1981, Trigger 1989). Long before English-speaking
archaeologists began to feature such work, Scandinavian researchers emphasized
experimental replication and use of archaeological materials, understanding ancient
sites and artifacts through modern peasant analogues, and limited use of overseas
ethnographies. Early interpretations of Mesolithic "kitchen-midden" sites as habitations
with trash deposits exemplify the Scandinavian approach (Trigger 1989).
English prehistoric archaeology initially developed in much the same pattern as it did in
France; faunal and artifactual remains were used mainly as to date sites and infer
environmental context. However, by the 1930s, a number of British researchers at both
Oxford and Cambridge began to experiment with putting ancient humans into the
ancient British landscape. In the 1930s, Harry Godwin at Cambridge began to develop
palynology into a systematic reconstruction of prehistoric vegetation from Ice Age to
historic times, following pioneering studies by Scandinavian researchers. Godwin and
others were careful to delineate the influence of humans in modifying vegetation
patterns in the agricultural colonization of Britain. In concert with such geographical
research, British archaeologists discussed "man-land relationships" (Burkitt 1933; Clark
1938) prefiguring what would later be called ecological archaeology. As articulated by its
leading archaeological exponent, Grahame (J. G. D.) Clark, this approach emphasized
reconstructing the ancient environment in which humans lived. Faunal and other
biological remains were seen as essential to both environmental reconstruction and to
understanding human resource use, or, as the Cambridge school phrased it, "economy,"
within that environmental context (Clark 1952).
British archaeologists' inclination toward environmental and economic reconstruction
was enhanced after the Second World War by new dating methods and analytic
techniques for biological remains. Faunal studies were themselves given a tremendous
boost in the 1950s, when the British government funded a major collaborative research
project on the origins of agriculture, involving several major departments of archaeology.
Based in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, the Ancient
Agriculture Project incorporated analysis of archaeofaunas as one of its key strategies.
Eric Higgs (Clark 1952; Higgs 1962, 1972; Higgs and Jarman 1975) and his students
(Jarman, et al. 1982; Sturdy 1975) worked on animal use, both hunting and husbandry,
in a variety of modern and archaeological case studies. They presented techniques for
diagnosing herd management and offtake from faunal assemblages. The focus on new
ways of studying animal utilization also influenced other Cambridge students interested
in earlier phases of human history, such as Africanists Glynn Isaac and J. Desmond
Clark, who in turn emphasized zooarchaeological analysis among their students (Isaac
Despite this strong interest in "palaeoeconomy," British faunal analysts had little formal
training in anthropology. It was not until the late 1970s that the concept of "culture," in
any of its many articulations, became a subject of discussion and research in British
archaeology (Hodder 1982a, 1982b; Hodder and Orton 1976). Reconstructions normally
focused on the immediate human-animal or human-plant interface, with little
consideration of wider questions about human social relations, cultural variations in
practices, and so forth.
Do the Regional Traditions Communicate?
Given their disparities in training and goals, it might seem that these different regional
traditions in archaeological faunal analysis have little to say to one another. Indeed,
although an international organization, the International Congress of Archaeozoologists
(ICAZ) exists and has members from all regions, and meets every four years, my
experience is that session papers from one regional tradition are often of limited interest
to researchers in other regional traditions.
However, trends encouraging greater communication and commonality of goals have
emerged in the last decade. First, some individuals have managed to work across one
or more traditions and are able to communicate with a variety of researchers in the
North American and European traditions. Second, the ICAZ meetings themselves have
brought researchers together in face-to-face interactions, increasing the likelihood that
they might develop an interest in one another's work. Third, some continental
researchers have turned more toward analysis of foraging patterns and other issues
dear to the hearts of Anglo-American zooarchaeologists. For example, the research of
Françoise Audouze and colleagues on late Magdalenian sites in the basin of the Seine
River (Audouze 1987, 1988; Audouze, et al. 1981) features many research questions
and approaches of interest in North American archaeologists. Fourth, certain areas of
research, especially studies of early hominids, have served to bring together previously
unacquainted researchers, often early in their careers. The last twenty years of
zooarchaeological research is thus worth examining in detail, to understand the
backgrounds, commonalties, and divergences of interests of its practitioners.
Streams of North American Research Converge in the 1970s
Much of the convergence of research on prehistoric bones stems from the common
interests of scholars in different disciplines in vertebrate taphonomy. Efremov (Efremov
1940, 1953) and other early workers thought of taphonomy as a subfield of paleontology
(Olson 1980). However, vertebrate taphonomy came to be a focus of great interest for
paleoanthropologists and archaeologists investigating ancient bones as evidence of
early hominid activities, and many recent advances in taphonomy in fact have been
produced by nonpaleontologists. This is partly because paleoanthropological research
in the U. S. and elsewhere received much greater national and private funding than has
paleontological research which doesn't study hominids or ancient primates. Greater
resources have permitted bigger research projects and faster progress. Results from
taphonomic work by any disciplinary group have been useful to the research programs
of the others.
In the English-speaking community, communication across disciplinary boundaries has
been intense and relatively free. Reasons for this are theoretical, practical, and
personal. Many recognized a common interest in the role of bones in ancient biological
and ecological systems, and in the loss of information about such systems due to
postmortem processes acting on bones. As zooarchaeology emerged in the 1970s, so
few people were working on taphonomy and paleoecology that they had to cross
disciplinary boundaries to find colleagues with whom to talk. Because interest in
taphonomy became strong in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of the first
researchers to do taphonomic research were of roughly the same generation. This
enhanced swift communication, since relations among researchers have been informal
and usually relaxed.
Many taphonomic researchers actually worked together on field teams, despite
attending different universities, concentrating in different disciplines, and even residing
in different countries. Such fieldwork contacts were often within large, well-funded
research projects on early hominids or origins of agriculture. The 1960s were
economically prosperous times for the U.S. and Western Europe, and funding for large-
scale, interdisciplinary research on human origins, the emergence of food production,
and the development of complex societies was at its height. Over this period and into
the 1970s, the U. S. National Science Foundation and private foundations gave millions
of dollars to such large interdisciplinary research projects, which normally included
faunal analysts. These projects brought together students from varied institutions,
disciplines, and regional traditions. For example, Andrew Hill, a student of English
geologist W. W. Bishop at the University of London, Kay Behrensmeyer, a graduate
student in paleontology from Harvard University, and myself, a student of Glynn Isaac at
the University of California, Berkeley, all spent time together at Lake Turkana, Kenya,
associated in different ways with the Koobi Fora Research Project.
Over the same period, other informal networks of taphonomic researchers grew among
archaeologists who studied North American prehistory, especially those concerned with
Paleoindian sites, with the earliest habitation of the Americas. Joe Ben Wheat (Wheat
1966, 1972) produced a landmark example of a detailed exegesis of site formation with
the Olsen-Chubbuck site, a Paleoindian bison kill-butchery locale. Wheat's painstaking
reconstruction of season from multiple sources (pollen, bison age structures), of the
actual hunting tactics from disposition of the bison in their arroyo trap, and of butchery
practices from the disposition of carcass units at the site, as well as his incorporation of
ethnographic and historic analogues, stood as a model for the analysis of other such
sites. George Frison (Frison 1970, 1974, 1978) and his students (Frison and Reher
1970; Frison and Todd 1987; Frison, et al. 1976; Todd 1995) and other North
Americanist researchers investigated mass bison kills in North America, ranging in age
from Paleoindian to protohistoric. Frison's own practical background as a hunter and
cattle rancher gave him a functional outlook on hunting and carcass processing
unequaled in many contemporary works (Frison 1991)
North Americanist archaeologists from the United States and Canada researching the
earliest evidence for human occupation in the Americas have also contributed
substantially to the literature on vertebrate taphonomy. Because some of the earliest
alleged traces of human activity in North America were assemblages from the Yukon
region of Canada, composed of broken and otherwise modified bones that lacked
associated lithics. Canadian archaeologists therefore became interested in determining
the causes of bone modification (Bonnichsen 1973, 1979; Bonnichsen and Bryan 1978,
Bonnichsen and Sanger 1977, Bonnichsen and Will 1980, Frisch 1968, Wilson 1983);
Guthrie 1982, 1984; Morlan 1980, 1983, 1991). Their work included a good deal of
experimental replication of bone modification.
Other archaeologists who have contributed to discussions on faunal analysis work with
Paleoindian mammoth and bison kill sites. These include Eileen Johnson (Johnson
1978, Johnson 1982a, Johnson 1985) and Dennis Stanford (Stanford 1978; Stanford, et
al. 1981) Most of these researchers began to work with bones early in their careers, but
took a somewhat different path than those working with African, European or Asian
materials. They had less of a background in paleontology and paleoecology, and were
less concerned, at least initially, with reconstructing prehistoric subsistence than were
either Wheat, Frison, and Frison's students or, for that matter, students of "Old World"
paleoecology and paleoeconomy.
By the end of the 1970s, North Americanists began to communicate with researchers
working on African and southwest Asian prehistory, sometimes informally, sometimes at
conferences, such as the 1984 Bone Modification Conference, sponsored by the Center
for the Study of Early Man, University of Maine at Orono (Bonnichsen and Sorg 1989).
As a result of these contacts an international network today exists among English-
speaking scholars that communicates about taphonomy, both formally and informally.
The network now includes persons in Latin America (Mengoni-Goñalons 1980; Borrero
1990) and other regions. Checking recent listings of members of the International
Conference of Archaeozoologists (ICAZ), one finds names of over 100 U. S. scholars
who analyze bones from archaeological and paleontological sites.
It is informative to examine these scholars' intellectual roots in more detail, because this
reveals that the faunal research network has convergent interests but no uniform
research agenda. Researchers from different disciplines often have different questions
in mind. Paleontologists are naturally less interested in distinguishing the effects of
humans on bone assemblages than are physical anthropologists or archaeologists.
More importantly, researchers in various disciplines approach their studies with differing
theoretical and methodological perspectives. This means that, although they
communicate a lot, researchers in this network are pursuing diverse goals, using
overlapping but not identical methods. As a result of this diversity, progress takes place
through a dialectical process. Intense debates on theory and method challenge each
side to develop their research more fully. The main subdivisions are paleontologists,
physical anthropologists, and archaeologists.

Part Two
Persons with Backgrounds in Vertebrate Paleontology and Zoology
Vertebrate taphonomy has of course been a practice of paleontologists for many years.
Among the most influential older American workers is Everett C. Olson, whose work on
community evolution in the Permian was enhanced by a taphonomic perspective earlier
than almost any other researcher. Olson's friendship with Efremov, and his ability to
speak and read Russian, allowed him to appreciate Efremov's thinking at a time when
few U. S. researchers had contact with their Russian colleagues (Olson 1980). Olson
had direct and friendly contacts with younger paleontologists who began making
taphonomic studies in the 1970s and attended the 1975 Wenner-Gren conference on
taphonomy and paleoecology.
Paul Parmalee, who co-authored the Eschelman site study with Guilday (Guilday, et al.
1962) was very influential in turning Americanist archaeology toward the practice of
zooarchaeology . Parmalee combined his background in zoology and strong interest in
the aboriginal inhabitants of the Midwest to reconstructing the ecological context and
animal diet of prehistoric peoples (1965; Parmalee et al. 1972; see also Purdue et al.
1991 for an overview of his career). As Curator of Zoology at the Illinois State Museum,
Parmalee built a strong zooarchaeology emphasis into the Museum program,
encouraging the more complete recovery of bone from archaeological sites in the region
and stressing the need for accurate taxonomic identifications and the reference
collections that enabled them. He trained and inspired many Americanist archaeologists
there and at the University of Tennesee, Knoxville during his long career (McMillan
1991). Parmalee, along with Guilday, was probably the most influential North American
worker in turning faunal reports away from simple species lists and toward a richer
reading of ecology and human behavior.
Stanley Olsen, by training a paleontologist, began while at Harvard University to
produce valuable keys to the identification of vertebrates from archaeological sites,
continuing his publications from his later post at the Arizona State Museum (Olsen
1960, 1968, 1972a, 1972b, 1973). He was among the first to use the term
"zooarchaeology" in print (Olsen 1971). More recently he has published on the
domestication of horses in China and of dogs (Olsen 1984, 1985)J.
Arnold Shotwell, both through his mentor relations with Grayson, and his written work
on inferring community ecology from element representations in deposits (Shotwell
1955, 1958, 1963).exerted a strong influence on the first generation of
zooarchaeologists. Although Grayson (Grayson 1984) has shown that some of
Shotwell's uses of quantitative data are inappropriate, Shotwell's pioneering work
reflects an early consideration of the role of depositional processes in structuring fossil
C. K. Brain of the Transvaal Museum in the Republic of South Africa conducted his
taphonomic research more or less independently for many years but was helpful to
younger workers training in the early 1970s. His book, The Hunters of the Hunted? An
Introduction to South African Cave Taphonomy (Brain 1981), synthesized many years of
experimental observations and analysis of paleontological samples, in which he had
produced a number of highly influential articles (Brain 1965, Brain 1967, Brain 1969,
Brain 1974, Brain 1975, Brain 1976, Brain 1980). These contacts were formally
recognized, and the circle of researchers expanded, through the 1975 Wenner-Gren
conference on taphonomy and paleoecology, which later resulted in the book Fossils in
the Making (Behrensmeyer and Hill 1980).
Several younger North American vertebrate paleontologists made valuable contributions
to taphonomic theory and method from the 1960s onwards. Michael Voorhies, an
American paleontologist, made valuable contributions to modern vertebrate taphonomy
at the end of the 1960s. Influenced by his mentor Heinrich Toots, Voorhies studied the
taphonomy of a large bone bed in Nebraska (Voorhies 1969a, 1969b). His research
included experiments on transport by water of various vertebrate elements, resulting in
definition of "transport categories," based on bones' hydrodynamic categories. These
were influential models for taphonomic analyses of hominid and hominoid sites in Africa
(Behrensmeyer 1975b; Shipman 1977,1982). Voorhies has more recently contributed to
studies of long bone fracture patterns in fossil assemblages (Myers, et al. 1980).
Among the most productive of the generation of taphonomic paleontologists trained in
the 1970s is Anna K. Behrensmeyer, whose research has often been conducted in
localities yielding early hominoids or hominids in Africa and Southwest Asia
(Behrensmeyer 1975a, 1978a, 1982a). Her dissertation research (Behrensmeyer
1975b) in the Koobi Fora - Ileret region of East Lake Turkana concentrated on the
sedimentary microstratigraphy, paleogeography, and taphonomy of the Plio-Pleistocene
fossil localities and archaeological sites. Behrensmeyer's approach to fossil
assemblages reflects her strong background in geology, both in terms of her attention to
sedimentary context of the bones and her frequent use of modern observations to
enhance understanding of the prehistoric deposits (Behrensmeyer 1982b, 1983). She
has experimented on aqueous transport of bones (Behrensmeyer and Hanson 1975;
Boaz and Behrensmeyer 1976, Hill, et al. 1985), made observations of bone weathering
in natural settings (Behrensmeyer 1978b), and documented the relations of bone
assemblages on land surfaces to ecological factors in an East African ecosystem
(Behrensmeyer and Dechant-Boaz 1980;, Behrensmeyer, et al. 1979). Behrensmeyer's
theoretical work on fossil assemblage formation reflects the interaction of her modern
observations and analysis of fossil assemblages (Behrensmeyer 1982b; Kidwell and
Behrensmeyer 1993). Although she has seldom held a formal teaching post, she has
been informal mentor and colleague to many younger American workers and to
numerous researchers in other countries. With other collaborators at the Smithsonian
Institution, she initiated a program on the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems which
synthesizes information from many phases of earth history (Behrensmeyer 1991, 1992).
Other paleontological taphonomists often read by zooarchaeologists include Daniel
Fisher, of the University of Michigan, who has contributed to studies of microvertebrate
concentrations (Fisher 1981), investigations of elephantid taphonomy in North America
and the influence of humans on those materials, using Scanning Electron Microscope
methods to document both cut marks and age at death (Fisher 1984a, 1984b, 1988;
Fox and Fisher 1994). Catherine Badgley, whose work has focused on taphonomic and
paleoecologic analyses of Miocene faunas in Asia (Badgley 1982, 1986b; Badgley, et al.
1984; Badgley and Behrensmeyer 1980), published a contribution on quantification of
individuals in fluvial fossil assemblages ; see also (Grayson 1984, Holtzman 1979,
Turner 1983). Anthony Fiorillo, contributed valuable experimental and paleontological
information on the origins of "pseudo-cut marks," on bone (Fiorillo 1984, 1987a, 1987b,
Persons with Backgrounds in Physical Anthropology
Physical anthropologists who engage in zooarchaeological or taphonomic research
include Andrew Hill, Richard Potts, and Pat Shipman. They are persons primarily
concerned with Plio-Pleistocene hominids and, in the case of Hill, Miocene hominoids.
They have worked mainly in east Africa and southwest Asia. Hill received a largely
paleontological and geological training with the late W. W. Bishop at the University of
London. His dissertation research was a taphonomic analysis of modern East African
land surfaces and their bone assemblages (Hill 1975). Hill studied patterns of bone
modification (Hill 1983, 1984, 1989a, 1976, 1982) carcass disarticulation and dispersal
(Hill 1979a, 1980, Hill 1979b, 1989b; Hill and Behrensmeyer 1984).
Potts has worked on faunal materials from Olduvai Gorge and other early East African
sites (Potts and Shipman 1981, Potts 1982, Potts 1983, Potts 1984, Potts 1988). He
has a background in biological anthropology, having studied with Erik Trinkhaus and
Alan Walker, as well as with primatologists at Harvard. The Potts and Shipman joint
publication on cut marks reflects the informal taphonomy network noted above, since
both met while working with the Olduvai materials stored in the Kenya National
Shipman, a student of Clifford Jolly at New York University, had a background in primate
evolution and did contemporary observations on the effects of drought and scavengers
on bones (Shipman 1975, Shipman and Phillips-Conroy 1976, Shipman and Phillips-
Conroy 1977). Her dissertation analyzed the Fort Ternan, Kenya, fauna from a
taphonomic perspective (Shipman 1977, 1981b, 1982, 1986a). Shipman's pioneering
use of Scanning Electron Microscope coupled with experimental production of
modifications are well-known (Shipman 1981a, 1981c, 1989; Shipman and Rose 1983a,
1983b), as are her discussions of early hominid paleoecology (Shipman 1986b, 1988,
Shipman and Rose 1983b).
Persons with Backgrounds in Archaeology
Old World Archaeologists
One U. S. "school" in zooarchaeology that began in the 1960s was actually transplanted
from the longstanding tradition of "economic archaeology" at the University of
Cambridge, England. In the 1960s, the University of California, Berkeley, hired three
Cambridge graduates: J. Desmond Clark, Glynn Isaac, and Robert Rodden, excavator
of the early Neolithic site of Nea Nikomedeia in Greece. The three agreed on the need
for archaeologists to develop expertise in faunal analysis to answer specifically
archaeological questions about prehistoric human behavior. Their outlook was
strengthened by the F. Clark Howell's interdisciplinary approach to paleoanthropology
and recognition of the importance of faunal studies in understanding hominid
paleoecology. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Berkeley students were encouraged to
pursue faunal studies. Most studied with one or more of the vertebrate paleontologists
on the campus: Joseph T. Gregory, William A. Clemens, and Donald Savage, who all
supported acquisition of paleontological skills by students in physical anthropology and
archaeology. Glynn Isaac especially encouraged many of his later students to undertake
experiments and observations of contemporary humans and carnivores to shed light on
evidence from prehistoric localities.
Graduates of this program have been active participants in discussions of
zooarchaeology and taphonomy (Blumenschine 1986a, 1986b, 1987, 1988, 1995;
Blumenschine, et al. 1994, 1996; Blumenschine & Selvaggio 1991; Bunn 1981a, 1981b,
1983a, 1983b, 1989; Bunn, et al. 1988; Bunn & Ezzo 1993; Bunn & Kroll 1986; Crader
1974, 1982, 1983, 1984a, 1984b; Gifford-Gonzalez 1985, 1989a, 1989b, 1991a, 1991b;
1998a; Gifford-Gonzalez & Kimengich 1984; Gifford-Gonzalez, et al. 1999; Marean
1986, 1989, Marean, et al. 1992; Marean & Ehrhardt 1995; Marean & Frey 1997;
Marean & Gifford-Gonzalez 1991; Marean & Kim 1998; Marean & Spencer 1991;
Marshall 1986; 1990; 1994a, 1994b; Marshall & Pilgram 1991, 1993; Marshall, et al.
1984). Other Berkeley PhD. archaeologists who began by working in lithic studies but
whose recent researches have involved taphonomic issues are Nicholas Toth (Toth, et
al. 1989) and Paola Villa (Villa 1989; Villa et al. 1988; Villa and Mahieu 1991). By the
end of the 1970s, many of these students were teaching zooarchaeology at other
universities, training the first group of students who entered zooarchaeology as an
already developed subdiscipline.
From the 1960s through the 1980s, researchers at the University of Michigan put into
the field a series of interdisciplinary research projects that featured, among other types
of analysis, faunal studies. These began with Flannery's important work in the Tehuacán
Valley of Mexico and the Deh Luran Plain (Flannery 1965, 1968a, 1968b). Flannery and
other scholars at Michigan trained a number of archaeological faunal analysts at the
University of Michigan, including Brian Hesse (Hesse 1982, 1990, 1995; Hesse and
Wapnish 1985), Jane Wheeler (Wheeler 1976, 1982, 1984), and Richard Redding
(Redding 1981, Redding 1991; Redding, et al. 1975). These students had the benefit of
working with Carl Hibbard, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Michigan.
These researchers have been less concerned in their written work with problems of
theory and method in faunal analysis, and more with practical and theoretical problems
in animal domestication and early food producing economies in southwest Asia and the
Harvard University produced several active researchers in zooarchaeology and
taphonomy in recent years, through different academic pathways. Richard Meadow
trained as a Middle Eastern archaeologist and has written papers on general
methodology in zooarchaeological analysis (Meadow 1976, Meadow 1980, 1984, 1989,
1990). Melinda Zeder (Zeder 1984, Zeder 1990, Zeder 1991, Zeder 1995, Zeder and
Arter 1994), who obtained her PhD. from Harvard University, trained as an
undergraduate at Michigan. She, too, has contributed articles on methods of
archaeological faunal analysis and continues work on the zooarchaeology of complex
societies from her base in the archaeozoology program of the Smithsonian Institution.
More recently Paul Rissman (Rissman 1987) has engaged in studies of offtake and
adaptation in the transition from foraging to farming in the Levant.
New World Archaeologists
Another prominent contributor to zooarchaeological research, Donald Grayson
(Grayson 1973, 1979, 1984, 1989), is based at the University of Washington. Grayson
also trained to be an archaeological faunal analyst in the late 1960s and early 1970s
during his graduate work at the University of Oregon. Although concentrating in
archaeology, Grayson had a background in physical anthropology and also studied with
the noted paleoecologist J. Arnold Shotwell. At the University of Washington, Grayson
was graduate mentor to R. Lee Lyman (Lyman 1977, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987a,
1992, 1994), now of the University of Missouri at Columbia. Lyman had already begun
to train in archaeological faunal analysis at Washington State University, reflecting the
tendency for archaeological faunal analysis to be taught as formal courses by the
middle 1970s. Other of Grayson's students include Lee Ann Kreutzer, who contributed
to the literature on bone densities (Kreutzer 1992a,1992b), and Jack Broughton, who
has applied behavioral ecological modeling to aboriginal California faunas (Broughton
1994a, Broughton 1994b, Broughton 1994c, Broughton 1997, Broughton and Grayson

Part Three
Self-Trained Zooarchaeologists
A number of well-known contributors to discussions of taphonomy and zooarchaeology
are people who developed skills in faunal analysis after some time working as
archaeologists. These scholars are essentially self-taught zooarchaeologists. Best
known is Lewis Binford. After a highly visible career as one of the champions of
American "new archaeology" in the 1960s, Binford began to work with faunal remains in
the early 1970s, as the result of his reflections on archaeological methodology (Binford
1983). He saw bones as a set of study materials that acted in a uniformitarian way
(Binford 1977, 1978, 1981), and that could therefore be investigated in contemporary
settings. Binford did bone-oriented ethnoarchaeology (Binford 1977, 1978, 1981) and
analyses of prehistoric faunal materials from many localities (Binford 1984; Binford and
Stone 1986). Binford has stated the value of studying bones in contemporary settings to
enhance analysis of prehistoric materials. He has developed useful approaches to
"economic anatomy" of mammals, such as the Utility Indices (GUI, MGUI) that now are
subject of much fruitful discussion in faunal analysis (to be discussed in Section Four).
Another well-known self-trained faunal analyst is Richard Klein, who was a student of F.
Clark Howell and Sherwood Washburn at the University of Chicago. Klein's early
research did not involve first-hand work with animal bones, although his training in
paleoanthropology and paleoecology provided a strong background for his later
concentration. Beginning in the 1970s, Klein worked in South Africa on Upper
Pleistocene and Holocene faunas. His work has contributed to understanding the
paleoecology of southern African (Klein 1980) and to humans' role in ancient
environments (Klein 1983, 1989). Klein and some of his students have developed an
approach to ageing animals, reconstructing mortality profiles, and inferring predation
patterns (Klein 1978, 1981, 1982;, Klein, et al. 1981, 1983; Klein and Cruz-Uribe 1984)
which will be discussed in detail in Section Four.
John Speth of the University of Michigan also turned to faunal analysis after an earlier
career in lithic analysis. His work on seasonal needs for fat in the human diet and its
probable influence on predation patterns (Speth 1983, 1988; Speth and Davis 1976;
Speth and Spielmann 1983) has strongly influenced recent interpretations of
archaeological faunal assemblages.
Another essentially self-taught zooarchaeologist and taphonomist is Gary Haynes, who
has studied effects of postmortem processes on bison, deer, and moose in North
America and on elephants and other mammals in Zimbabwe. He supplemented
observations of natural situations with experimental feeding of captive animals (Haynes
1980a, 1980b, 1982, 1983a, 1983b, 1986, 1987a, 1987b, 1988a,1988b, 1991, 1995).
Haynes has also studied prehistoric mammoth and mastodon death sites in both North
America and the Soviet Union, using information derived from his modern observations.
Haynes developed his approach while still a doctoral student. From then on, Haynes
has acted as a very important link between North Americanist and Africanist
taphonomists and zooarchaeologists, and between Russian and English-speaking
Is Any One Background Better?
Given that zooarchaeology by definition deals with bones from an archaeological point
of view, any effective practice must deal with human actions and the contexts of those
actions. Thus, it would seem that an exclusively zoological or paleontological
background would be less suitable than one based in anthropological archaeology.
Indeed, anthropological archaeology, as practiced in the U. S. and Canada, provides a
rich context for framing research questions and interpretations. Ethnographic studies
provide us with an idea of the range in human-animal interactions possible among
recent peoples, which sometimes can be augmented by our own ethnoarchaeological
research. Cultural ecological studies provide us with theory relevant to modeling
subsistence strategies of prehistoric peoples. Especially for those of us dealing with
archaeological traces of Homo sapiens sapiens, studies of the symbolic roles of animals
in modern human cultures is also a valuable resource.
However, a paleontological training provides a different kind of rich and valuable
background. In addition to learning about the morphology of animals in a comparative
and evolutionary perspective, contemporary paleontologists assimilate principles of
ecology. These are valuable fields of knowledge for zooarchaeologists seeking to
understand the place of hominids in ancient ecosystems. Moreover, and very
importantly, paleontologists are taught to be circumspect in interpreting their evidence.
Taphonomy itself deals with the processes that intervene between the life states and the
fossil contexts of animal remains. It seeks to reveal the processes responsible for the
patterning in fossil (and, by extension, archaeological) accumulations, so that a
researcher can interpret their meaning with a better sense of whether ancient life
relations created those patterns. Another kind of circumspection comes from the classic
paleontological concern with differentiating similarities in form based on common
evolutionary history versus similarities resulting from convergent evolution. This concern
with similar outcomes of different causes, also known as equifinality, is relevant to
zooarchaeological practitioners, as is paleontological concern with taxonomy and
Likewise zoology and ecology, with their interest in living organisms, their classification
and their relationships, provides valuable background for both explicit modeling and
preliminary sorting through more or less plausible hypotheses. Methods developed in
zoology for distinguishing closely related species on the Equally importantly, study of
the ethology and behavioral ecology of animal species can enhance zooarchaeologists'
understanding of how hominids would have had to strategize in manipulating given
species, whether in hunting them, regularly locating their fresh carcasses, or living with
them as mutualists and parasites in food producing societies.
Based on feedback in the Zooarchaeology Research News survey mentioned earlier, it
is possible now, it seems, to "major" in zooarchaeology, hewing to a rather narrow track
within anthropological archaeology. Despite being a teacher of zooarchaeology, I
believe it important to maintain contact with the other life and historical sciences that
deal with animals, as well as with specific disciplines which may be relevant to
situations, for example history and historiography, animal production and veterinary
science, meat science, and nutrition.
While a multiplicity of approaches produce results useful to zooarchaeology, some do
not. Problematic approaches are not so much related to disciplines as to faulty
background in the logic of scientific inquiry. Some earlier analyses of archaeological
materials failed to demonstrate what they alleged because of a lack of understanding of
the analogical nature of archaeological interference or inadequate grasp of the potential
for equifinal results. A number of experimental studies of bone, and archaeological
inferences derived from them, have been criticized for not eliminating alternative
explanatory hypotheses within the research design. Among the most famous of
research areas in which this kind of logical error took place is that of research on spiral
fracture of long bones, which will be taken up in Section Three.
At this stage in the development of zooarchaeology, there is no single best way to
approach archaeological bone accumulations with anthropological questions in mind. All
strategies currently in practice have yielded valuable information. Grayson, with his
strong background in paleontology, has usually asked questions of a biogeographical
and evolutionary nature, and has treated many of the samples he has analyzed as
essentially paleontological in nature. Binford, working from the position that the
archaeological record can provide detailed information on human behavior and
adaptation, has analyzed his collections with behavioral reconstruction in mind. Frison,
with a deep practical knowledge of landscape and animal behavior, has asked
increasingly complex questions about the interplay of hunters and hunted in the
Western Plains. Others have followed their own agendas in designing research and
analyses, most with productive results.
Rather than argue for a unitary approach to vertebrate remains, I believe that diversity
and even dissonance produces many theoretical advances. Researchers who find
themselves trying to span the lack of fit between two related analytical systems may
well be able to expose and explore implicit and unquestioned assumptions in both. The
process of talking past each other may, given the will to ask why such
misunderstandings exist, produce new mutual insights for researchers in overlapping
fields. Knowledge is thus gained through a dialectical process, in which initial
misunderstandings and confusion may lead to more complex and deep understandings
of our objects of study. I personally have found this to be so in my own work, as an
archaeologist trained by paleontologists, as a U. S. archaeologist trained by Cambridge
graduates, as a zooarchaeologist studying recent African pastoralists with methods
devised to study early hominids, as a woman in a field as yet dominated by men. I
therefore advocate occupying, at least occasionally, the uncomfortable spaces along
disciplinary boundaries.

Part One
Chapter Two showed that bones, teeth, and shells have been accepted as reliable
evidence for chronology, ancient environmental setting, and human activities for over
two centuries. Faunal remains have been perceived as such credible evidence of past
conditions because they possess properties that have remained uniform over long
spans of time. Zooarchaeological writings often have discussed bone's uniformitarian
properties (Binford 1981; Bonnichsen and Will 1980; Gifford 1981; Gifford-Gonzalez
1991; Lyman 1987b, 1994, Young 1989). Recent research in zooarchaeology has often
involved experiments with bone and observations of modern non-human and human
bone modifiers with the aim of building casebooks of analogues for evidence in
archaeological samples. Because studying the present to understand the past is such a
central part of zooarchaeology, and because this has been a controversial area, it is
best to begin with an examination of these matters.
Defining Uniformitarianism
The term uniformitarianism was used by English geologist Charles Lyell in the early
1830s, in developing his explanation of the geologic history of the earth. Lyell was
constructing an argument against the "Catastrophist" school of earth historians, who
argued that the discontinuities between faunas in geological deposits and those
documented in the contemporary world were created by a succession of unique events
unknown in our present world, each of which ended a major cycle of life on earth
(Hooykaas 1970). In Principles of Geology (Lyell 1830, Simpson 1970), Lyell argued
that all geological, and by extension, paleontological, deposits on earth could be
accounted for solely by invoking the operation of processes observable in the
contemporary world, rather than events exceptional to it. This assumption is what
George Gaylord Simpson (Simpson 1970) called methodological uniformitarianism.
Simpson points out that, in the span prior to publication of Darwin's and Wallace's
theory of organic evolution, Lyell's also postulated that forms of life did not alter
significantly through earth history, a position Simpson calls substantive
uniformitarianism. Once convinced by arguments for organic evolution as the source of
new species and disappearance of older forms, as well as by the new fossil evidence
and artifact associations, Lyell abandoned the latter position in later versions of his
work. However, Lyell's methodological uniformitarianism became and continues to be a
cornerstone of the historical sciences, including geology and paleontology.
A corollary of the uniformitarian position provides historical geology and allied sciences
with a practical research strategy for learning more about the past: one can understand
the origins and nature of deposits in the earth by studying processes that are currently
forming analogous deposits in the present-day world. In historical sciences, and more
recently in archaeology, studying present-day analogues to learn more about preserved
evidence from the past is often called actualism (Binford 1981; Gifford 1981; Herm
1972; Hermans 1977; Hooykaas 1970; Lawrence 1971). To native English speakers,
this term may be puzzling, since "actually" has the meaning of "in fact" in our language.
However, the Latin root of "actual," and the word in contemporary German and
Romance languages mean "of the present." The term, drawn into English from its
original use German paleontology, thus refers to the present as a source from which to
draw meaning to assign to evidence from past.
Reasoning by Analogy
The phrase "modern-day analogues" brings in the third component in an actualistic
research strategy: analogical reasoning. What is the relation of uniformitarian
assumptions, and reasoning by analogy, and actualism? More specifically, how does
this relate to the archaeological study of bones? Faunal remains are reliable indicators
of past processes and contexts only if one takes a uniformitarian perspective. When we
diagnose a developmental stage from a feature such as an unfused epiphysis on a
bone from an ancient site, we are assuming that this feature was produced in the past
by the same ontogenetic processes as produce them in the present. We interpret traces
of an agent of postmortem modification, such as a carnivore tooth mark, on a fossil
bone by assuming such marks were produced by a carnivore in the unobservable past.
At a more fundamental level, even calling a fossil bone a bone and not a rock assumes
that objects of that particular form and internal structure have come into existence in the
same way as modern analogues, as parts of vertebrate bodies, over a long span of
earth history.
Debates over Analogical Reasoning in Archaeology
In the 1960s, some "New Archaeologists" claimed that archaeology should move
beyond analogical reasoning to inference based on deduction (Binford 1967; Freeman
1968). However most archaeologists today accept that both our methods of inference
and even how we know what we know usually rest on such analogies (Binford 1981,
1987; Hodder 1982b). Richard Gould (1980; Gould and Watson 1982) more recently
reasserted that we could "escape" from using analogies by relying on "laws" --
statements of invariable relationships -- derived from ecology, biology, and geology.
Wylie (1982, 1985), a philosopher of science, pointed out that using law-like,
uniformitarian principles is in fact a special form of analogical reasoning, predicated on
the assumption that processes and relationships in the remote past were virtually
homologous to those observed in the present, upon which law-like statements are
One might sum up a perspective on the use of analogy in archaeology in three
statements: Analogy is inevitable. Analogy can be abused. Analogy may be refined by
actualistic research. Let us examine each of these points more closely.
Analogy is Inevitable
Working with bones from the prehistoric past, we use analogy at every step, from
naming the osteological element and identifying the species to inferring details of
ancient environment or ecological interactions.
Let us take an example. When we excavate a fossil bone identical to a right femur of a
modern deer, we simply call it the femur of a deer. We call the fossil a femur based on
its resemblance to modern femora, but we actually go through a complex, although very
fast, set of evaluations of its physical traits. The bone may differ markedly from modern
ones in some features, such as its weight, color, or chemical composition, but we decide
these are not relevant to identifying the bone and the species. These traits instead
reflect processes that affected the ancient bone postmortem, and our first concern in
identification is with its earlier life context. So, in naming the bone we make an analogy
with modern femora of deer, based on criteria of similarity that we think are relevant.
Most paleontologists or archaeologists will pursue inference by analogy considerably
further. Although we did not find any other bones of the deer, we accept that the fossil
femur once existed as part of a skeleton. We also "know" that the femur had certain
specfiable muscles and ligaments attaching to it (the quadruceps femoris and not the
biceps brachii, for example), with specified functions in locomotion. We have few
problems with accepting that the deer had been a browser, with a ruminant digestive
system and various other anatomical parts characteristic of the species. We would go
even further. We'd state the ancient deer was an adult when it died, because the
epiphyses at either end of the bone were fully fused. We would probably also accept
that the bone and the entire deer's body grew from a fertilized ovum, with some of its
cells diversified into specialized bone tissues. Given a modern comparative set of male
and female deer femora, we might even conclude that the fossil bone probably came
from a male. We might also accept that this ancient male underwent rutting seasons.
By this time we have inferred a great deal about the anatomy, physiology, embryology,
feeding, and reproduction of an animal we have never seen, all based on one bone.
This is what philosophers call an ampliative inference. Yet, we feel there is nothing
fantastic or assailable about these inferences. What we have done is use a very
complex set of analogy to infer the prehistoric existence of physical traits and behaviors
that we have not actually seen. We have made these broad inferences on the basis of
one object's similarity to others we know from our experience of the present-day world.
Analogy Can Be Abused
However, we might make assertions about the prehistoric deer about which we don't
feel so secure. For example, we could say that this male deer was not reproductively
successful, or that he was eating berries when he died. We do not feel secure about
these latter inferences because we cannot support clear one-to-one linkages between
the object we have and the traits we propose to infer. We think of too many possible
exceptions to the correlation between them. This tells us something about what makes
a strong analogy. Secure analogic inferences, such as those about the functional
anatomy and embryological development of the deer femur, are based on clear
functional links between the object studied and the traits and associations of
contemporary counterparts. In reality, we feel secure in those inferences because we do
not know of any cases in documented time in which femora appeared in the world
without such biological contexts and histories. Thus, the embryological development
and functional anatomy of femora are "necessary and sufficient" causes of their
Philosophers of science call this more warranted, functionally based kind of analogy
relational analogy. Relational analogies are thought to be stronger types of analogy than
those based simply on resemblances of form, or formal analogies. Relational analogies
involve arguments about functional relationships, such as structure or causation,
between the phenomena specified (Copi 1982; Hesse 1966; Wylie 1985).
An example of the contrast is useful here. A person with little background in archaeology
presents an archaeologist with a small, flat, roughly triangular stone, saying, "Look, I
found an arrowhead. What kind is it?" The archaeologist examines it and says, "This
isn't an arrowhead, it's just an unmodified stone." The layperson, a little incensed, says,
"How can you say that? Look, it's pointed and triangular, it's shaped just like an
arrowhead!" The archaeologist replies, "But, see, it doesn't have any flake scars on it,
the signs that someone shaped it into a point by chipping away stone from around the
edges. It's just a natural rock that happens to have the same shape as some
arrowheads made by people."
Depending on the quality of the archaeologist's explanation and on the people involved,
the discussion ends with the layperson accepting the archaeologist's "expert opinion," or
rejecting the archaeologist's diagnosis as another example of the mumbo jumbo
academics use to keep common folks out of their field. In this example, the layperson is
working on the level of a formal analogy, whereas the archaeologists is reasoning from
a kind of relational analogy, in which the form is less important than the distinctive
traces of human handiwork necessary to have generated a projectile point.
We can now turn to what many writers have condemned as misuse of "ethnographic
analogies" (Ascher 1961, Binford 1967, Binford 1987, Freeman 1968, Gould and
Watson 1982, Hill 1984). This misuse, like the less secure inferences from the deer
femur, involve uncritically assigning a set of traits from an ethnographically documented
case to a prehistoric one. The basis for the inferences may be formal resemblances of
some preserved prehistoric objects to materials from the ethnographic culture.
But similar problems arise in modern archaeological interpretations. Take, for example,
the U.S. Southwest, where "direct historic" links between modern Pueblos dwellers and
prehistoric peoples have been accepted since the turn of the century. Recent writings
have stressed the potential for assuming an unwarranted amount of ethnographic
similarity between ancient and recent pueblo dwellers (Cordell and Plog 1979). For
example, can we assume that, just because Anasazi pueblos had structures similar in
their physical details to modern kivas, the activities which went on in ancient kivas and
the ideas that structured their use were the same as those of recently documented
pueblo peoples? In fact, this assumption has often been made in archaeological
analyses, with little attention to developing arguments for why this should have been so.
Some recent reconstructions of Plio-Pleistocene hominid adaptations show similar
problems in overly ampliative applications inferences from ethnographic analogy. Some
writings inferred from the association of stone tools and bones at loci (sites) in the
landscapes that these were "home bases" of the sort created by modern hunter-
gatherers, and that they reflect other behaviors that go on at base camps, such as food
sharing (Isaac 1971). Binford (Binford 1981), Hill (Hill 1984), and others have criticized
these models of early hominid life as unwarranted inferences from the preserved
Reasoning about preserved archaeological materials is thus fraught with difficulties that
involve the use of analogic reasoning. Especially because human behavior is so
mutable, it is difficult to construct arguments about the meaning of archaeological
materials that are entirely relational, at least at the level we want to be working at when
studying the past. We may be able, as we'll see in later chapters, to claim a carnivore
gnaw mark on a bone is a tooth mark with a very high level of confidence; we may even
be able to tell which species of carnivore probably made it, for example, a hyena. But
what does this fact in itself tell us about the context in which the tooth mark was made?
Did the hyena hunt the animal whose bone has the mark? Did it scavenge a body
segment with the bone in it from another carnivore's kill? From a human kill? If the latter,
were the people still in the area or had they left? How common was that kind of

Part Two
Causal Agent, Effector, Actor, Behavioral and Ecological Context
The hyena example contains several distinctions worth keeping in mind through most of
this book, and to which we will return at the end. We can conceive of the contexts and
processes that generate zooarchaeological assemblages as a nested set, ranging from
the most immediate and specific conditions of force and chemistry that produce an
effect on animals remains up to the most general types of context in which these
interactions occur (see Figure 3.1).
Figure 3.1 The nested relations of a trace to its causative agencies and contexts (after Gifford-Gonzalez
1991:Figure 2, redrawn with permission of Academic Press, Inc.).
At the innermost level, we have the actual trace, something we can study as empirical
evidence. Closest to it is its causal process, in this case, the action of the tooth of a
hyena pressing into a section of bone, which fails to withstand the pressure, gives way
and produces a mark, evidence of that interaction of materials and force.
Second, we have what we could call the effector of the damage, the hyena tooth, which
can be identified by analogy with modern hyena teeth and the marks they leave on
bones. Third, we have the actor creating the evidence though the immediate causal
process, the hyena itself.
Fourth and fifth, we have the context in which the agent was acting to produce the
evidence, which can be variously defined, depending on the range of one's focus. In the
most immediate sense, there is the behavioral context in which the evidence was
produced. In the hyena's case, it could be either "predation" or "scavenging." At this
analytic level, human "hunting," "storage," or "herd management" would be behavioral
contexts. Beyond this is the social and ecological context, referring to the type of
ecosystem and web of social relations in which the actors lived.
Figure 3.1 reflects a point of view that acknowledges what biologist Ernst Mayr (Mayr
1982, Mayr 1988) has called a hierarchical view of biological systems, in which
explanations or descriptions that work for the organization of life processes at a lower
level (e. g. biochemical reactions) cannot account for the entire operation of the system
at a higher level.
Much of what interests us as archaeologists is at the analytic level of behavior, social
systems, and regional ecology. However, what we have to work with, in terms of the
immediate evidence at hand, are the products of actors and effectors. The challenge is
linking our more sophisticated ability to read causal processes, effectors, and actions to
higher-order questions about these wider contexts (Gifford-Gonzalez 1991).
To pursue why this a challenge, let us return to the hyena example. Establishing a
strong relational analogy that implicates a causal process, effectors, and actor is
relatively straightforward, but it could involve eliminating other possible agents, such as
a hyena mandible in the hands of a hominid. The problem comes when we try to use
the hyena tooth mark to infer whether the animal was hunting or scavenging when it
gnawed the bone we are analyzing.
Two zooarchaeological debates over cut marks on bones illustrate some of the
problems involved in moving from one level to another in reasoning by analogy. First,
Pat Shipman and her associates (Shipman 1981a, Shipman and Rose 1983c)
described a number of detailed morphological criteria under the Scanning Electron
Microscope which they said distinguished cut marks made with stone tools from
scratches from sharp teeth of carnivores. A few years later, paleontologists working with
bone assemblages from epochs pre-dating hominids described similar marks on their
bones (Behrensmeyer, et al. 1986, 1989, Fiorillo 1987a, 1984, 1987b, 1989). Fiorillo
ascertained through experiment that these "pseudo-cut marks" could be created on
bones trampled against a sandy substrate by hoofed animals, as would be likely around
a waterhole.
In fact, the causal process producing pseudo-cut marks and real cut marks was the
same: a sharp, angular edge of a stone. However, the actual effectors and actors were
different, and therefore inferences from the evidence about them were ambiguous.
Investigators then undertook a new generation of research to distinguish these two
traces on the basis of other criteria, including substrate type (does is contain angular
materials that can cause pseudo-cuts?) , placement of marks on the bone (are they in
anatomically "logical" zones for butchery, or more or less randomly located?), and so
The contextual levels of are the most difficult in which to establish unambiguous
relational analogies, because these are in fact complex situations, where webs of
different agents and processes operate. Nonetheless, even ecosystems have been
shown to have regular relationships between different processes, as for example,
between the amount of rainfall and standing biomass (Coe and Phillipson 1976). Many
of the components in these regularities are variable over space and time. Therefore
they are not well suited to simple, cause-effect descriptions that work so well at the level
of causal process, effector, and actor. This presents inferential problems to those of us
who want to learn more about behavioral, social, and ecological context. because clear-
cut relational analogies are the power they bring to analogical inference are rare at this
level of organization. The outcome of processes is more likely to vary, and to be best
described by probabilistic, rather than "if a, then b" statements. At these levels, the
process of analogical reasoning is not impossible, it is simply more complex and
probably has different standards for evaluating its soundness. We will revisit this issue
again later in this book.
For now, I want to emphasize is that it would be a very great error to say we should
avoid using analogies taken from modern ethnographic (or ecologic) cases. In truth, it is
hard to imagine how we can say anything about prehistoric materials without using
some kinds of analogies, in naming, describing function, or defining context. Being more
critical in using analogy is a twofold task. First, we should strive to use analogies that
are less formal than they are relational. This in turn means investigating systematic,
functional links between types of archaeological evidence and their causes and agents
in the present. Second, we can explore the qualitative differences between these
analogies and those analogical arguments we make in more complex, higher-level
systems here called context.

Part Three
Refining Analogy by Research with Modern Cases
The only circumstances in which we can explore the functional and causal relationships
necessary to relational analogies are present-day situations. This is because it is only in
the observable present that we can document the link between a process and its
material product, a cause and its effect. I should add that I include historically and
ethnographically documented relationships in "the present." By establishing these links,
we can return to archaeological materials with a sense that the analogies we use to
interpret them are secure.
The basic relationships in the process of studying modern analogues are outlined in
Figure 3.2. In the present-day world, we observe an archaeological object. On the basis
of pre-existing assumptions and arguments that enable us to be archaeologists, we
accept that it has come down to us from some past period. We don't fully understand
some feature of this object. We think that it if we understood this feature better, we
would gain valuable information about the object's role in the past. On the basis of our
knowledge of the present-day world, we select a modern counterpart for the
archaeological object. We verify through comparison that the two objects of study are
similar in features that we believe are relevant to our inquiry, at the same time noting
respective features which differ between the two objects (Copi 1982, Wylie 1985),
keeping in mind that analogies will always have points of difference, otherwise they
would be homologies (Young 1989).
Again on the basis of our knowledge of the contemporary world, we chose a range of
processes which might possibly have created the feature in question. Under controlled
conditions, which can range from experiment to carefully monitored natural situations,
we establish which of these processes created the feature. Sometimes we discover that
some other process is involved. With our new understanding of the cause of the feature
under investigation in the present, and because of the resemblance of the experimental
set to the archaeological set, we infer that a similar process produced the
archaeological feature at some time in the past.
Figure 3.2. A model of analogical reasoning in historical science. Shaded area indicates opportunity for
contemporary observations. The "inferred similarity" on the left may also be viewed as one or more
uniformitarian assumptions.
Inferring the cause of the prehistoric feature requires that we assume that similar
processes have produced similar traces over long stretches of time. This is the core of
methodological uniformitarianism. The practice of gaining more information about
potentially uniformitarian processes and their products through experiment and
observation of contemporary analogues is actualism.
Actualism in Zooarchaeology
Archaeologists and paleontologists have done actualistic research on bones and other
organic remains more and more frequently in the last twenty years, and much of the
balance of this book will illustrate the ways in which actualistic investigations and the
analyses of archaeological faunas work together to raise and resolve analytic issues.
Research in contemporary settings has included controlled experiments and
observations of relevant natural situations. Studies of bones in "natural" settings can be
subdivided into ethnoarchaeology and taphonomy, depending on whether or not
humans were among the agents handling and modifying bones. The increasing
frequency of these studies reflects the widespread recognition of the relationships of
analogical reasoning, uniformitarian assumptions, and actualistic research in the
historical sciences. Contemporary studies allow us to define what features of an object
are likely to endure over time, and how these features are functionally related to its life
Much of this research has yielded valuable results for inferring past events through
analogical reasoning. Detailed experimental and naturalistic observations of bone
collectors and bone modifiers have defined causes of modifications and patterns of
preservation also found on prehistoric bones, such as cut marks, tooth marks,
weathering, and spiral fractures, which will be discussed in Section Four This research
has enriched our understanding of ecosystems and the role of bones in them. Greater
knowledge of structural and functional relations of bones as elements in ecosystems is
just beginning to allow us to extend the ranges of our relational analogies beyond the
agents of modification to their ecological circumstances.
Taking Product-Focused Approach
This text incorporates another perspective in analyzing zooarchaeological evidence that
might be called a product-focused approach (Gifford-Gonzalez 1998). Faunal
assemblages, both paleontological and archaeological, have complex histories, in which
multiple causal processes have acted. Some processes may leave traces of their
operation; some may obscure or remove the marks of others. For example, the flaking
of bone surfaces due to weathering can remove shallow cut marks on the original bone
surface. This sequential process of modification is sometimes called the "taphonomic
overprint"(Lawrence 1968). Some earlier taphonomic writings, emphasized the loss of
information about life context through various postmortem processes acted on organic
remains. This point of view is correct to the degree that it describes the progressive
postmortem divergence of animal remains from their original state as parts of living
organisms in ecosystems.
However, this perspective holds out a chimerical goal in taphonomic and
zooarchaeological analysis: the "unbiasing" of an archaeofaunal sample back to its
original context in a living system. As Lyman (Lyman 1994) and I (Gifford 1981) have
previously noted, this is an unrealistic aim. Lyman (Lyman 1987b) has argued, as have I
(Gifford-Gonzalez 1991), that, rather than viewing the role of taphonomic analysis as
"stripping away the overprint," it is more productive to view these effects as evidence
added to specimens by postmortem processes. In fact, taphonomic evidence is a form
of trace fossil of the action of other organisms and nonbiological processes upon
organic remains. In a different context, bone isotope analyst Andrew Sillen (Sillen, et al.
1989) put it this way: "diagenesis suffers from a bad name; we tend to see it as the mist
on the window rather than part of the view."
A product-focused approach begins with the viewpoint that each specimen has its own
individual history, some of which can be discerned from its form, composition, and
modifications (Figure 3.3). These include attributes functionally related to its
development and role during the life of an animal and others resulting from the effects of
various processes upon it after death. Analysis therefore always begins with recording
data from individual bones. Despite starting with individual bones, understanding the
dominant processes that created a bone assemblage demands that data taken from
individual bones be read as an aggregate pattern. Just as there is no typical site, there
is no typical bone.
Frequently reiterated human actions affecting bone, a customary way of cutting up a
sheep, for example, as well as repeatedly occurring non-human processes, produce
patterning in the aggregate evidence. The patterning is thus the cumulative reflection of
redundant incidents of human behavior or natural agencies that produced a certain type
of damage or element deletion. These patterns reflect some of the most common
processes affecting animal remains over the time the site assemblage formed. Not
every small event that occurred may be reflected in the evidence, but rather the
dominant impactful processes. Our task as zooarchaeologists is to try to understand
those processes which created the patterning. Like other archaeologists, faunal
analysts must also consider how to cope with the possibility that some processes
affecting archaeofaunal samples left no direct or distinctive traces. This is a situation
where what Lyman (1987) has called a "forensic" approach is most useful.
"Signatures," Equifinality, and a Forensic Approach
Zooarchaeologists have sought distinctive "signatures," that is, marks which could have
been made by only one agent (e.g. a carnivore, a hominid with a stone tool) through
actualistic research. Based on uniformitarian assumptions, experimental observations of
cause and effect in contemporary settings permit a finer-grained and more plausible
reading of certain faunal evidence. However, actualistic research has sometimes shown
that different agents produce very similar effects. The example of pseudo-cut marks
noted earlier is one such case. Lyman (1987) describes this as a problem of equifinality
("same end," or same final outcome). We thus face the problem of how we determine
which causal actor was responsible for the evidence.
To handle this problem, it is impossible to argue from the ambiguous trace or line of
evidence itself. Rather, it is necessary to use several independent lines of evidence that
point to the same actor as the most probable cause of the trace. by a case of equifinality
at the level of causal process and effector by mobilizing two related by independent
lines of evidence: sedimentary context and anatomical placement of the marks.
This approach has been termed "forensic" by Lyman (1987), emphasizing parallels to
investigations in which multiple lines of evidence, each independent of the other, are
brought to bear. The more lines of circumstantial evidence point to the same causal
process, effector, and actor, the more likely is that these were in fact responsible for the
outcomes being investigated. This approach to reducing ambiguity about causal agency
or circumstances also been called "contextual analysis," and applying independent
uniformitarian "frames of reference" Binford (1989). The crucial point is that the lines of
evidence should not depend on each other in a functional sense. Thus, the problem of
equifinality in zooarchaeology means that we may not be positive about the causal
context of given line of evidence, but actualistic research allows us to limit the range of
causal possibilities and a forensic approach allows us to feel more strongly justified in
specifying one of these possibilities, when several independent lines of evidence point
to the same causal process. The courtroom standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt"
may not be a realistic criterion for zooarchaeologists, but something close to this may
be achieved.
In this context that faunal analysts may want to look beyond their own dataset to other
lines of archaeological evidence that might point to similar causal contexts. This is
especially the case when seeking to make inferences at the level of past behavioral,
social, and ecological contexts, where analogical reasoning from any one line of
evidence may be more probabilistic in nature (see Gifford-Gonzalez 1991).
Key Types of Evidence in Zooarchaeology
Zooarchaeologists handle bones one by one, but they almost immediately abstract
information from them to make aggregate patterns of data noted above. Two
fundamental categories of information are used in zooarchaeological analysis, upon
which nearly all other abstractions of data and inferences are built.
One of these fundamental types of information is element frequencies, or counts of the
numbers of anatomical elements, relative to one another, in a faunal sample. This is the
knowledge upon which statements such as "Caribou were the most common species in
the assemblage," or "Aardvarks are rare in Late Stone Age sites," are based.
Generalizations about species abundances are thus derived from element frequency
data. Moreover, reconstructing the age structures of animals present in the sample and
thereby making inferences about hunting, herd management, or seasonality depends on
summary counts of age-diagnostic bones and teeth and reckoning of their relative
frequencies. Size variations of a species over time, often linked to climatic fluctuations
(Klein 1986), depends on counts of elements with different metrical attributes. Studying
butchery and selective body segment transport by people handling animals, likewise
depends on frequencies of elements from different vertebrate body segments, also the
data on which assessing the amount of in-place destruction of more delicate bones is
based. Thus, taxonomic abundances, age and sex structures, and body part
representation, are all different permutations of basic element frequency data.
The second major category of data zooarchaeologists use in aggregate form may be
called added modifications, or surface modifications (Fisher 1995). These can be cuts,
chops, burning tooth marks, weathering, or any impacts of humans, other biological
agents, geological, or mechanical forces on anatomical elements. Sometimes,
researchers cited in this text refer to these as "traces" or "signatures" of various agents.
Our ability to recognize and derive useful information from such modifications has
expanded tremendously since the 1970s, and much of this book will be devoted to
summarizing what is known about the causes of various bone modifications, as well as
the unresolved problems in making plausible inferences from them.
This chapter has underlined that it is the uniform properties of organic remains as they
respond to destructive or modifying forces enable zooarchaeological research. This
uniformity stems from consistencies in the development and construction of anatomical
elements in animals during their lives. In other words, it is the consistency with which
bone, teeth, shell, and other organic materials react to the demands of life that create
their uniform responses to stress after death. The next section deals with those
uniformitarian properties of living vertebrate remains.

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