Zooarcheological Contributions to the Smithsonian’s National Taphonomic Reference Collection


Taphonomy, the study of how organisms fossilize and information that is lost and gained along the way, has emerged as pivotal to reconstructing the paleoecology of animal communities and ancient human lifeways. Through taphonomic analysis, we can decipher the sources of bone accumulations at paleontological and archaeological sites and the processes involved in bone modification and preservation. Such inquiries rely upon well-documented reference collections that link certain bone modifications to specific taphonomic agents, processes, and ecological contexts. Here we introduce two major additions to the Smithsonian’s National Taphonomic Reference Collection (NTRC), consisting of roughly 5,000 taphonomic specimens assembled by two of us (Gifford-Gonzalez and Haynes), during many decades of experimental, ethno-archaeological, and landscape-scale taphonomic research in North America and Africa. The taphonomic significance of each specimen has been meticulously documented using original field notes, photographs, and inventories, in a searchable online database. The NTRC is the first global taphonomy repository and is designed to grow with future additions of modern and fossil bones that document known or inferred taphonomic processes. The collection can be accessed digitally and/or through examination of the actual specimens at the museum. We encourage archeologists, paleoanthropologists and paleontologists to utilize this valuable comparative resource.

Cite this Record

Zooarcheological Contributions to the Smithsonian’s National Taphonomic Reference Collection. Jarod Hutson, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, Gary Haynes, Amanda Millhouse. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443240)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21049