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Archaeology as a tool for understanding past marine resource use and its impact

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Title of host publicationPerspectives on Oceans Past
DatePublished - May 2016
Pages47-69
PublisherSpringer
Place of PublicationNew York
EditorsKathleen Schwerdtner Máñez, Bo Poulsen
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-017-7496-3
ISBN (Print)978-94-017-7495-6

Abstract

As the study of material traces of past human activity, archaeology straddles the sciences and humanities. Alongside time depth, often stretching back thousands of years, it is this intersection between environmental and cultural evidence that confers archaeology's unique potential as a tool for understanding past marine resource use and its impact on ecosystems. In this context, the specialist discipline of zooarchaeology falls somewhere between palaeontology and environmental history: animal remains from archaeological sites represent data on past animal populations viewed through a filter of human activity, but this filter is also the object of study since it constitutes evidence for exploitation of those populations.
This chapter gives a brief introduction to the discipline of zooarchaeology before moving on to review the main ways in which archaeological data may contribute to marine environmental history and historical ecology: from biogeography, through evidence for capture, consumption, and trade, to ancient DNA and other biomolecular techniques.

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