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Social Zooarchaeology
Humans and Animals in Prehistory


  • Date Published: February 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521143110

£ 46.99

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • The first comprehensive overview of the emerging field of social zooarchaeology
    • Argues for the importance of recognising the symbolic and social roles of animals in past societies
    • Suitable for all zooarchaeologists and archaeologists with interests in animals
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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, 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.' 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, 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, American Journal of Archaeology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521143110
    • length: 562 pages
    • dimensions: 254 x 178 x 29 mm
    • weight: 1kg
    • contains: 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Beyond protein and calories
    2. Animal symbols
    3. Animals in ritual
    4. Hunting and humanity
    5. Extinctions
    6. Domestication as human-animal relationship
    7. Pets and other human-animal relationships
    8. Animal wealth
    9. Meat beyond diet
    10. Studying human-animal relations.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Language and the Environment
    • Zooarchaeological Theory
    • Zooarchaeology
  • Author

    Nerissa Russell, Cornell University, New York
    Nerissa Russell is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the full range of human-animal relations, with particular emphasis on the social and symbolic roles of animals for ancient people. She has published more than forty book chapters and articles in journals including Antiquity, Paleorient and the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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