7 Taphonomic and Diagenetic Processes

  • Gisela Grupe
Reference work entry


The recycling of matter within an ecosystem is a fundamental process and therefore, fossilization of a body or its parts is always the exception to the rule. The transition of organic remains from the biosphere to the lithosphere (= taphonomy) comprises the successive steps of necrology, biostratinomy, burial, and diagenesis. Focusing on the taphonomy of vertebrate skeletons, fossil types, and the main processes leading to preservation and/or destruction of a dead body and how these are intertwined, are introduced. All in all, fossilization is not a random process. Almost all of the first-order changes a dead body is subject to prior to fossilization may lead to alterations in size and shape of a skeletal part, which might be mistaken for artificial manipulations (pseudoartifacts). Taphonomic processes without doubt lead to a stepwise loss of information about the formerly living being. Today, methodological progress especially in the field of archeometry permits the evaluation of a variety of lifetime parameters. However, deep insights into taphonomic, especially diagenetic, processes are the indispensable prerequisites.


Heat Exposure Trace Fossil Skeletal Element Diagenetic Process Dead Body 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



My special thanks are to the editors of this handbook for inviting me to contribute to this volume. Susanne Bischler, MA and Sara Dummler, Dipl Biol kindly provided some of the figures, and George McGlynn, MA edited this manuscript.


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  • Gisela Grupe

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