Dear Jon and list members

Thank you for the elaborated response. I did not want to tire the list with too much information but since you asked, I will be happy to be more specific (for those who are interested).

I am looking for references on taphonomic studies that were carried out in tell / sedentary / historic sites. By 'taphonomic studies', I refer to the relationship of:

  1. Body part frequency : Utility indices (i.e., MGUI,  SFUI and Meat Utility Index)
  2. Body part frequency : Weight indices (e.g., SWI)
  3. Body part frequency : Survival indices (structural density). References on distinguishing between density mediated attrition by post depositional processes and by carnivores (dogs primarily) would be very much appreciated.


  1. Quantitative analysis of fresh breaks (breakage that accrued during the archaeological excavation the procedure subsequent to it).
  2. Fragmentation (NISP:MNE ratio).

I am interested also in the effect of the non-sieving archaeological excavation on body part representation of relatively large mammals (cattle) and smaller mammals (caprine). Cut marks, of course are another topic I studied. For the last two topics, I have some good references. Yet, l will be glad to enrich my knowledge.

Thank you for reading,

Aharon Sasson
Department of Anthropology
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0532, USA


-----Original Message-----
From: Analysis of animal remains from archaeological sites [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jonathan Driver
Friday, June 10, 2005 7:57 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ZOOARCH] taphonomic studies in historic sites


Dear Aharon,

there are many site reports of non-hunter-gatherer sedentary communities that incorporate taphonomic studies as a component of the analysis. I think you may have to be more specific about what you mean by "taphonomic". A taphonomic study looks at the processes that bring bones to a site, deposit them, and then move/damage/destroy them.

On a non-h/g site, humans are significant taphonomic agents. They influence the choice of animals brought to the site (e.g. townspeople select from the animals raised by farmers outside the site). They distribute animals and parts of animals according to the economic system (e.g. butchers, markets etc), status and ethnicity. They often have specific disposal methods that structure assemblages. Relevant authors include Melinda Zeder ("Feeding Cities"), J.D. Hill on structure of refuse on British Iron Age sites, Briane Hesse and Paula Wapnish re near eastern sites, William Walker (fairly recent paper in American Anthropologist on site structure), David Landon on historic Boston, the recent ICAZ volume on ritual and religion, Legge and Rowley-Conwy in the Abu Herehyra (spelling?) report, the paper by Robert Muir and me in Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (2002), lots of material from British urban sites (start with Terry O'Connor's text book, check out recent ICAZ volumes, look at the BAR series)

On the other hand, you may be interested in distinguishing natural from cultural accumulations of bone, and natural and cultural post-depositional agencies. Again, there has been a lot of discussion about how to recognize human vs animal collection of small vertebrates (J. of Arch. Sci. or Intl. J. of Osteoarchaeology for many references. Peter Stahl, Brian Hockett, Brian Shaffer are names that come to mind, but many other people have done excellent studies on this topic). I've tried to look at this (although quite simplistically) for sites in the American Southwest (see my faunal reports for Crow Canyon Archaeological Center at (try Castle Rock, Woods Canyon and Yellowjacket Pueblos as examples where we have a lot of rodent and lagomorph bones, and are trying to figure out natural versus cultural)
Hope some of this helps. I'd recommend a search through the library for zooarchaeology edited volumes of the last decade, plus a thorough journal search.

01:22 PM 08/06/2005 -0700, you wrote:



Dear friends

I would very much appreciate references on taphonomic studies on faunal remains that were carried out in tell sites (i.e., mound) or historic sites (to distinguish from hunter-gather prehistoric sites) or sites of sedentary population or all the above. Sites from the Southern Levant are preferable. However, since I am concentrating on methods of analysis, sites from other regions are valued too.

Many thanks in advance,


Aharon Sasson
Department of Anthropology
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0532, USA

Jonathan C. Driver
Dean of Graduate Studies
Professor of Archaeology
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia
V5A 1S6
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Telephone:  604-291-4255  Facsimile:  604-291-3080

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