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

Jacqueline S. Meier, Reuven Yeshurun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102602
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the organizers of the 2018 meeting of the International Council of Archaeozoology (ICAZ) in Ankara. This paper was developed during conversations that took place in the conference session titled ?Contextual Taphonomy in Theory and Practice?, chaired by the authors. We appreciate the comments on the session theme that were made during the conference by discussant, Nerissa Russell. Meier also thanks Natalie Munro and Nigel Goring-Morris for their helpful mentorship and collaboration on the zooarchaeological study of the 2010-2012 excavation seasons at Kfar HaHoresh, Israel, the results of which are reviewed herein.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020


  • Feasting
  • Intra-site analysis
  • Site organization
  • Site-formation processes
  • Taphonomy
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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