Session: #390

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Archaeothanatological and Taphonomic Analyses of Human Remains
Both archaeothanatological and taphonomic analyses of human remains are emerging fields. Since the 1980s taphonomic analysis of human remains has evolved from an adjunct and secondary interest within archaeology and palaeoanthropology to become a core interest on both archaeological and geological time scales. This change came about through realisation that the context in which remains were found had a profound influence on not only the preservation of them but also permitted researchers to better interpret the processes that contributed to the patterns found in the archaeological and palaeontological record. In essence, this shifted interests from being solely concerned with the biological analysis of remains to a more holistic and systematic approach to consider the contexts in which remains are found to address both biological and social evolutionary questions- from the origin of hominins to the present day. This opened a new scientific agenda in which taphonomic research informs research objectives in bioarchaeology, osteoarchaeology, palaeoanthropology, and palaeontology, and it is the central focus for research interests variously identified as funerary taphonomy, funerary or mortuary archaeology, archaeothanatology and the archaeology of death, and has also become increasingly important in forensic anthropology and archaeology and medico-legal science, which share an interest in understanding how past physical processes influence the preservation and patterning of human remains. Although there may not be an agreed single definition of taphonomy, there is homogeneity in taphonomic analysis, which shares the idea that modifications of human remains have enormous potential for answering behavioural and environmental research questions about the past. This session welcomes contributions from those with shared interests in fostering cross-disciplinary perspectives. The goal of the session is to develop a collaborative network that will assess the state of these studies, aid the development of new techniques, and identify and disseminate experimental approaches to better address research questions.
Taphonomy, Archaeothanatology, Human remains, Methods
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
Session associated with CAA:
Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:
TapHomo Working Group (TAPHEN, Taphonomy European Network)


Main organiser:
Edgard Camarós (Spain) 1
Christopher Knüsel (France) 2
Eline Schotsmans (Australia) 3
1. IIIPC - Universidad de Cantabria
2. PACEA - Université de Bordeaux
3. Centre for Archaeological Science - University of Wollongong