A Perspective on Zooarchaeology

  • Diane Gifford-Gonzalez


This chapter discusses how inherently consistent properties of organic materials enable zooarchaeological research. These stem from uniformities through time in the development and construction of bone, teeth, shell, and other organic materials in living animals, as they react to the species-specific demands of life. Traits of hard tissues such as bone and teeth also govern generally uniform responses to stresses inflicted after death, which zooarchaeologists can understand by making contemporary observations. The first part of this chapter sketches the history of the concept of uniformity of cause and effect over time, as it arose in historical geology and was applied in paleontology and later in archaeology. It outlines points of agreement and debate among researchers theorizing how to use such inherent qualities of biological materials to study the past. Using uniform traits of organic materials to shed light on the unobservable past involves reasoning by analogy, and part of this chapter discusses the history of controversies over the role of analogy in archaeology. The final section outlines the major types of archaeofaunal data zooarchaeologists use to explore humans’ interactions animals in the past.


Theory Actualism Uniformitarian Configurational Forensic approach 


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Authors and Affiliations

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

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