Understanding faunal contexts of a complex Tell: Tel Dor, Israel, as a case study

Lidar Sapir-Hen, Guy Bar-Oz, Ilan Sharon, Ayelet Gilboa, Tamar Dayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The complex stratigraphy of the large Levantine tells and the complexity of human behavior that took place on them, poses a major challenge in understanding site formation processes and their reflection in the faunal remains. We studied the contextual deposition of faunal remains in Tel Dor, as a model for complex tell sites, and the possibility of using faunal remains as a tool to distinguish between context types. In addition, we asked how can we use this knowledge to elucidate site formation processes. Our results demonstrate that most loci defined in the field as primary refuse or purposive disposal are indeed different from the loci defined as secondary refuse. Different types of contexts can be differentiated, to a degree, from one another based upon multivariate analysis of faunal remains. Statistical as well as spatial analyses may help elucidate site formation processes and the use of space. Bones can, and in many cases do, reflect primary activities. Lumping zooarchaeological data into a single 'assemblage', as done in most zooarchaeological studies today causes major loss of information. Consideration of the specific location of faunal remains can be used as further indication for context identity and for understanding specific activities in a site, with care this can be done even in complex sites such as the 'urban mounds' of the Levant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-601
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Yiftah Shalev, director of area D5, for much help with choosing and understanding the loci for the spatial analysis; Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, director of area D2, and Sarah Stroup, director of area D4 for collaboration and help throughout the excavation; Steve Weiner for guidance and assistance with the FTIR analysis; Guy Nizri for assisting with creating the GIS maps; Three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. We thank the Israeli ministry of Science, Culture & Sport for supporting the National collections of natural history at Tel Aviv University as a biodiversity, environment and agriculture knowledge center. The research was funded by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 1010/06 ). The first author was supported by Ancient Israel – New Horizons scholarship .


  • Context
  • Deposition
  • Faunal remains
  • Site formation processes
  • Taphonomy
  • Tell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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