Contextual taphonomy for zooarchaeology: Theory, practice and select Levantine case studies

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Contextual taphonomy is an archaeological approach that integrates taphonomic variables with stratigraphy and context, often at the intra-site level. A majority of zooarchaeological research explores vertebrate taphonomy broadly by entire temporal levels of sites, thus aggregating multiple contexts by time period. Yet, an increasing number of high-resolution studies go beyond this level to explore taphonomy per context or by other meaningful intra-site divisions. This approach marshals the rich information offered by the well-established discipline of taphonomy to build depositional histories of site features that contain bones, thereby revealing their formation and use. Here, we aim to better formalize the definition of contextual taphonomy for zooarchaeology and demonstrate its great applicability through select case studies in Israel. In this summary of the approach for the Special Issue on “Contextual Taphonomy in Zooarchaeological Practice”, we lay out the main requirements for multi-scalar contextual analysis and caution against potential pitfalls. Ultimately, archaeofaunal taphonomic studies at the context level are pertinent for myriad research questions, including those of refuse maintenance, camp organization and feasting.

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Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports



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