Answers in the Dirt: Taphonomy, Preservation Bias, and Pastoralism at Iron Age Nichoria, Greece

Author(s): Daniel Fallu; W. Flint Dibble

Year: 2017


The assumed increase of cattle in Dark Age Nichoria has been a key piece of evidence for the "cattle-ranching" model of Dark Age Greek economy. New zooarchaeological analysis, however, demonstrates a distribution of more robust skeletal specimens which are likely the result of preservation bias, rather than economic reliance on cattle. Geoarchaeological analysis of "archival" soils retrieved from uncleaned bones provides some confirmation and additional detail: the abundance of cattle bones at Nichoria is likely the result of taphonomic, rather than economic, processes.

Initial micromorphology revealed that the Dark Age assemblages were likely affected by soil formation, while calcium carbonate concentrations in Bronze Age layers protected bones from dissolution. Infrared analysis confirms that calcite is largely absent in the Dark Age soils. Further comparison of spectra shows that apatite, likely resulting from the degradation of bone, is present within the soil matrix. This matrix apatite is present in similar proportions in both the Bronze Age and Dark Age soils, suggesting some uniformity in process. While yet inconclusive, these results call into question the validity of a long-held economic model for the so-called "Greek Dark Ages," and show the potential for geoarchaeological research even on sediments from earlier excavations.

Cite this Record

Answers in the Dirt: Taphonomy, Preservation Bias, and Pastoralism at Iron Age Nichoria, Greece. Daniel Fallu, W. Flint Dibble. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429277)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15155