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

Introduction

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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References

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Further Reading

  1. Binford, L.R. 1978. Nunamiut ethnoarchaeology. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Blumenschine, R.J., C.W. Marean & S.D. Capaldo. 1996. Blind tests on inter-analyst correspondence and accuracy in the identification of cut marks, percussion marks, and carnivore tooth marks on bone surfaces. Journal of Archaeological Science 23: 493-507.Google Scholar
  3. Domínguez-Rodrigo, M. 2002. Hunting and scavenging by early humans: the state of the debate. Journal of World Prehistory 16: 1-54.Google Scholar
  4. Fisher, J.W., Jr. 1995. Bone surface modifications in zooarchaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 2: 7-68.Google Scholar
  5. Gifford-Gonzalez, D. 1991. Bones are not enough: analogues, knowledge, and interpretive strategies in zooarchaeology. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 10: 215-254.Google Scholar
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  7. Lupo, K.D. & J.F. O'Connell. 2002. Cut and tooth mark distributions on large animal bones: Ethnoarchaeological data from the Hadza and their implications for current ideas about early human carnivory. Journal of Archaeological Science 29: 85-109.Google Scholar
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  10. Pickering, T.R., R.J. Clarke & J. Moggi-Cecchi. 2004. Role of carnivores in the accumulation of the Sterkfontein Member 4 hominid assemblage: a taphonomic reassessment of the complete hominid fossil sample (1936–1999). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 125: 1-15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia