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Social Zooarchaeology
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Book description

This is the first book to provide a systematic overview of social zooarchaeology, which takes a holistic view of human-animal relations in the past. Until recently, archaeological analysis of faunal evidence has primarily focused on the role of animals in the human diet and subsistence economy. This book, however, argues that animals have always played many more roles in human societies: as wealth, companions, spirit helpers, sacrificial victims, totems, centerpieces of feasts, objects of taboos, and more. These social factors are as significant as taphonomic processes in shaping animal bone assemblages. Nerissa Russell uses evidence derived from not only zooarchaeology, but also ethnography, history and classical studies, to suggest the range of human-animal relationships and to examine their importance in human society. Through exploring the significance of animals to ancient humans, this book provides a richer picture of past societies.


'This is the textbook that the zooarchaeological community has needed and been waiting for over the last decade … Russell has successfully brought together an exceptionally diverse literature into a coherent textbook that will, I believe, become a classic in the long-term. In the short-term, it is already encouraging exciting research among the student body and will certainly help to support existing efforts to bring on a new generation of zooarchaeologists who are capable of more thought-provoking interpretation of the data they produce.'

Naomi Sykes Source: Antiquity

'The breadth of research presented in this volume is vast. The bibliography, which exceeds 150 pages, is enough to indicate that this is a laudable project and a valuable contribution to the discipline. Russell succeeds in demonstrating that animals and their remains contain important social meanings and can be involved in a wide range of practices that can shape faunal assemblages … the book is an excellent resource, collating the enormous variety of behaviors and practices over temporal and geographical ranges. The volume is written in an enjoyable and comprehensible manner, and will engage students and technicians of prehistory, zooarchaeology, and archaeology.'

Source: Journal of Field Archaeology

'… fills a substantial and significant gap in the literature on the theorization, analysis, and synthesis of the specialty of zooarchaeology. This text, published in 2012 by the University of Cambridge Press, will undoubtedly become a requisite tome for all zooarchaeological practitioners … Russell’s perspective moves past basic subsistence reconstruction and embeds the faunal record in the social world of humans.'

Amber VanDerwarker Source: American Anthropologist

'Russell’s endeavor 'to stimulate richer, more complete accounts of local prehistories' to build a fuller understanding of the history of human-animal relations has been achieved, and I am thus a better zooarchaeologist and educator for having read this volume.'

Deborah Ruscillo Source: American Journal of Archaeology

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  • 6 - Domestication as a human–animal relationship
    pp 207-258


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