Accepted Paper:

Reconstructing depositional histories through faunal analysis (and why bone is great)  


Richard Madgwick (Cardiff University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the potential of a holistic approach to faunal analysis for the purposes of reconstructing depositional histories, particularly at sites with obscured or unobservable stratigraphy.

Paper long abstract:

Animal bone represents a highly under-exploited resource in the archaeological record. Traditionally faunal analysis has centred on issues surrounding husbandry, economy and processing practices in order to reconstruct foodways in the past. Faunal material is now utilised for a far broader range of purposes and the development of new techniques such as isotopic analysis, genetic research, geometric morphometrics and cementum banding analysis amongst others have substantially enhanced the information that can be gained from animal bones. Unsurprisingly animals remain very much at the centre of research on faunal material, but the osseous remains themselves may have untapped potential for gaining new insights into the archaeological record, particularly in terms of the reconstruction of depositional histories through taphonomic analysis. Bones represent the optimal archaeological resource for reconstructing the taphonomic trajectories of deposits, as they are resistant enough to decay to survive in abundance in the archaeological record (depending on the character of the depositional environment), but also soft and malleable to the degree that they can be altered by a range of processes, thereby taking an imprint of their taphonomic history. Far fewer processes are traceable on ceramics and the few taphonomic indices which are frequently analysed have uncertain or varied aetiologies.

The potential of an analytical approach focussing on a range of different taphonomic indices including weathering, gnawing, trampling, abrasion, mould staining and fracture character is investigated for the purposes of reconstructing depositional histories at sites with uncertain or unobservable stratigraphy. The later prehistoric midden of Potterne is used as a case study.

Panel S05
The evanescent milkman cometh: archaeologies of obscure complexities, actions, formation and transformation