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29 BAJR Guide: An Introduction to archaeological fish remains

29 BAJR Guide: An Introduction to archaeological fish remains

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Published by David Connolly

This guide aims to outline the importance of fish remains in the understanding of people in the past, discussing what fish remains can tell us and why they tend not to receive the same attention as mammal bones. It also provides a practical guide to the recovery for fish remains and a brief introduction to identification and analysis. A list of useful resources for the identification of fish remains from archaeological sites is included for those who wish to pursue an interest in fish remains.

This guide aims to outline the importance of fish remains in the understanding of people in the past, discussing what fish remains can tell us and why they tend not to receive the same attention as mammal bones. It also provides a practical guide to the recovery for fish remains and a brief introduction to identification and analysis. A list of useful resources for the identification of fish remains from archaeological sites is included for those who wish to pursue an interest in fish remains.

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Published by: David Connolly on Nov 18, 2009
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01/24/2014

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Introduction to archaeological fish remains
BAJR Practical Guide Series
 
Hannah Russ AHRC PhD Researcher November 2009
Guide 29
© held by authors
 
 An Introduction to archaeological fish remains
 This guide aims to outline the importance of fish remains in the understanding of people in the past, discussing what fish remains can tell us and why they tend not to receive the same attention as mammal bones. This document was created byHannah RussAHRC PhD ResearcherDivision of AGESPhoenix Building SWUniversity of BradfordBD7 1DP hannahruss1@yahoo.co.uk 
Working with fish-bones was getting under his skin!
 
 An Introduction to archaeological fish remains
 1. Aim
 This guide aims to outline the importance of fish remains in the understanding of people in the past, discussing what fish remains can tell us and why they tend not to receive the same attention as mammal bones. It also provides a practical guide to the recovery for fish remains and a brief introduction to identification and analysis. A list of useful resources for the identification of fish remains from archaeological sites is included for those who wish to pursue an interest in fish remains.
2. Why collect fish remains?
Fish has constituted an important part of the human diet during many periods in the past. However, fish remains can tell us much more about human behaviour than just establishing diet.Given the appropriate resources fish remains can indicate:What type of fish are being eatenSite type processor or consumerProcessing methodsTechnological capabilities e.g. if they are using boats to exploit deep sea fishWhat kinds of fishing gear is being usedIf fishing was a seasonal activityFish remains tend to receive much less attention than the remains of mammals recovered from archaeological sites. There are several reasons for this (see below), but the identification of fish bones from a site is important as it will allow a more complete interpretation of human life (especially diet) in the past.Fish bones can be very small, and therefore only recovered by environmental samplingFish bone identification is difficult and there are few specialistsFish is often not considered an important dietary resourceBe aware! People are not the only agents that deposit fish remains. For most sites humans can be identified as the accumulation agents based on the associated finds within discreet contexts.At some sites this association is much more difficult – for example where there is complex stratigraphy or where there has been heavy bioturbation. It is important to be sure that you have fish bones that are deposited by people before interpretations regarding human diet and economy are made.

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