Applied Models and Indices vs. High-Resolution, Observed Data: Detailed Fracture and Fragmentation Analyses for the Investigation of Skeletal Part Abundance Patterns
Outram, Alan K
University of Exeter
Journal of Taphonomy
Prometheus Press and Palaeontological Network Foundation
The history and development of skeletal part abundance studies is briefly discussed. Two principal strands of this sub-discipline are the application of indices of food utility and bone mineral density to the interpretation of skeletal part abundance patterns. Both food utility and bone mineral density indices are derived from modern observations, underwritten by uniformitarian assumptions, and are used to model behavioural and taphonomic patterns in the selection and survival of bone elements. The application of such models is critiqued. It is argued that, whilst such models remain extremely valuable, they will always suffer from equifinality with regard to end interpretations. The solution to this problem does not lie in improving these models, or the data they derive from, though this may be desirable, but in the more time-consuming option of improving the resolution of archaeologically observed data. Several ways of doing this are briefly discussed. One of these options, fracture and fragmentation analysis, is outlined in detail. Sample applications of such an approach are presented and discussed. These include the use of fracture and fragmentation analysis to identify specific practices that can severely skew skeletal part abundances, such as bone grease rendering, and the identification of levels of pre-depositional and post-depositional fracturing within the taphonomic history of bone assemblages.
Reproduced with permission of the publisher. Copyright © 2004 Prometheus Press/Palaeontological Network Foundation.This is the published version of an article published in the Journal of Taphonomy 2(3), pp.167-184
Journal of Taphonomy, (2004), 2 (3), 167-184