Crossing the Line (Part I): Making taphonomy work for social practices in prehistory

Author(s): Hannah Chazin

Year: 2015


This paper is the first part of a two-part exploration of the use of taphonomy as an archaeological technique across prehistoric archaeology and the archaeology of the contemporary. Parts I and II are a dialogue, through which both authors have re-approached their own work on taphonomy as an archaeological method and analytic. Part I is an exploration of how approaching taphonomy as history opens up the possibility of exploring the political ramifications of pastoral practices. The zooarchaeological analysis of faunal remains from pastoralist societies in the Late Bronze Age South Caucasus serves as a case study. This work suggests how treating taphonomy as history and analyzing pastoralism as acts of assembling can productively address the simultaneously economic and political stakes of the organization of pastoralist life. The paper suggests that the political stakes of pastoralist assemblings are two-fold: 1) they produce the background of everyday, unremarkable practices of production, consumption and exchange and 2) assembling is also key to producing prescriptive material, semiotic narratives (discourses of power). In doing so, the paper will address how dialogue with the use of taphonomy in the archaeology of the contemporary has productively influenced this approach to taphonomy in a prehistoric context.

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Crossing the Line (Part I): Making taphonomy work for social practices in prehistory. Hannah Chazin. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395533)