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Reconstructing depositional histories through bone taphonomy: extending the potential of faunal data

Madgwick, Richard ORCID: and Mulville, Jacqueline ORCID: 2015. Reconstructing depositional histories through bone taphonomy: extending the potential of faunal data. Journal of Archaeological Science 53 , pp. 255-263. 10.1016/j.jas.2014.10.015

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Reconstructing the sequences of deposition of archaeological material is central to the interpretation of archaeological sites and provides the foundations for how site chronology is understood. Generally stratigraphy provides the most direct evidence for understanding depositional histories. However, in certain instances stratigraphic relationships may be obscured or unobservable and therefore other sources of evidence must be drawn upon for defining deposits and reconstructing sequences of deposition. This is a particular problem at dark earth sites, which are homogeneous in terms of the colour and texture of deposits, and also in artefact-rich samples, which have little sedimentary matrix. This paper explores the potential of a new approach to the analysis of bone taphonomic data for the purposes of deciphering depositional histories when stratigraphy is unobservable. Integral to this method is rigorous statistical analysis of modification data combined with an assessment of the taxonomic and anatomical composition of deposits, in terms of their susceptibility to modification. This facilitates more confident interpretation of modification patterns, as deposit composition can be discounted from responsibility for significant differences. The approach is tested on a sample area of the later prehistoric midden of Potterne, Wiltshire, UK. Through detailed recording and statistical analysis of bone modifications (weathering, gnawing and trampling), this research demonstrates that bone taphonomy is not only useful for identifying distinct depositional events in apparently homogeneous strata, but can also provide detail on the nature of processes responsible for the formation of the deposit.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bone taphonomy; Stratigraphy; Depositional histories; Statistical analysis; Site formation
Additional Information: Available online 30 October 2014
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0305-4403
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 19 October 2014
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 18:34

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