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Definition: The study of taphonomy in general is interested in how animals and plants become part of the fossil record. When archaeologists use the term, they have concentrated primarily on defining and describing evidence of human use of plants and animals, separating out natural processes from cultural ones. As such, the study is related to forensic science, which involves studies of such processes in legal cases.

While nearly every working archaeologist must address taphonomic processes, the leaders in the practice of taphonomy include Robert Blumenschine, Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, Sandra Olsen, Pat Shipman, and James F. O'Connell. Bradford University has a fairly new department dedicated to the Degradation of Archaeological Materials, which combines many of the taphonomic studies being conducted today.


A bibliography of taphonomy in archaeology has been constructed for this project.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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