Accepted Paper:

The deposition of concepts: bones and social processes  


James Morris (Museum of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses how a contextualised taphonomic approach to faunal remains allows us to investigate moments of transition and their associated social meanings and concepts.

Paper long abstract:

Excavation is the life blood of archaeology with a great deal of time and effort engaged in the digging and recording of sites. Individual stratagraphic contexts are indentified, planned and documented, their finds bagged and tagged. Yet when it comes to interpreting these finds we could argue that much of that effort has been wasted. This is because the majority of finds are discussed and interpreted in large, artificially imposed, chronological phases. Regarding faunal remains this is, in part, necessary due to the methodologies employed to investigate the traditional economic questions associated with zooarchaeology. However, when discussing social issues this supra-biographical approach often leads to meta-level interpretations.

To move towards a social zooarchaeology it is necessary to focus on the individual. Rather then asking 'what does this (artificially imposed) deposit type mean', we should ask 'what does this individual deposit mean'. This paper will draw on methodologies such as the chaîne opératoire, as well as the work of Schiffer (1983; 1987) and a taphonomic approach to the archaeological record, to suggest that a life history approach to individual faunal deposits can inform on social process. By examining the life history of faunal remains we view snapshots of the transformations that lead from a living animal to a deposit of remains. It is during these transformations that the embodied concepts society or individuals give animals and their remains change. Therefore, by studying these faunal remains we are also studying changing social concepts.

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