Zooarchaeology and Ecology: Mortality Profiles, Species Abundance, Diversity

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez


Chapter 22 reviews analytic methods drawn from general ecology that zooarchaeology has used since its inception over four decades ago. Mortality and taxonomic abundance measures are proxies for past processes that zooarchaeologists hope to monitor, such as hunting strategies, domestic animal management, and impacts of climate change on subsistence. The most useful proxies are those that stipulate a traceable link – physiological, structural, causal – between the proxy and some aspect of the targeted ecological processes or relationships. Given this starting point, chapter critically reviews the history and zooarchaeological applications of mortality profile analysis as a proxy for herd management and hunting. It reviews classic ecological measures of taxonomic richness, abundance, evenness, and diversity, showing how zooarchaeologists have applied such methods to archaeofaunal samples to address a range of human behavioral questions. Zooarchaeology shares a challenge with ecology in using these measures to compare samples: such quantitative measures have been shown to be sensitive to sample size (see Chap. 18 on MNI). Ecologists have devised some means of assessing whether such effects are likely in samples they wish to compare, and archaeologists have applied all of them, including regression analysis and rarefaction. These tests, their limits, and the relevance of sampling to redundancy as a background for comparing zooarchaeological samples are reviewed.


Mortality profiles - Herding - Hunting - Species richness - Species abundance - Evenness - Diversity index - Sample area - Rarefaction 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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