Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Taphonomy in Human Evolution

  • Jessica C. Thompson
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_674


Taphonomic research is essential for the interpretation of fossil plant or animal assemblages that are recovered from early archaeological sites. Within human evolutionary studies, it provides a way to reconstruct past processes that have acted on fossil assemblages of direct relevance to our understanding of early hominin and early modern human behavior. Taphonomic research may be applied to the fossil remains of human ancestors themselves, the remains of the animals and plants that were part of their ecological surroundings, or the material remnants of their behavior (e.g., the discarded remains of their meals). Without taphonomy, the many processes that can operate on an assemblage over the long time periods represented by the human evolutionary record could not be reliably untangled.

Taphonomic processes are typically viewed as reductive and destructive, taking away information from a complete picture of the forms and ecologies of living things in the past. However,...

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Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia