Social Relations Through Zooarchaeology

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez


For zooarchaeologists, the question is not whether animals are woven tightly into human social relations but how to study this with archaeofaunal evidence. Beginning with the premise that social difference and inequality, if only those based on age and gender, pervade all human societies, this chapter reviews zooarchaeological approaches to social relations in diverse contexts. It uses exemplary studies to argue that zooarchaeologists have the tools to explore social relationships in societies of different scales and subsistence types. These include bone surface modifications and other taphonomic traces, taxonomic and element frequencies, mortality patterns, economic anatomy, and bone durability, and composition analysis of intrasite archaeofaunal aggregates – in other words, methods developed in other contexts work very well as basic research tools for exploring social relations. This chapter augments these by offering a set of conceptual tools for research into social relations, illustrated by some case studies: the household, chaîne opératoire , task differentiation, political economy, practice theory, being only some of the possibilities. The cases outlined indicate that such endeavors optimally juxtapose archaeofaunal data with that drawn from artifacts, architecture, site structure, documentary sources, and other contextual evidence, truly being cases where “bones are not enough.”


Social zooarchaeology Inequality Production Exchange Cuisine Practice theory Methodology 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

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

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