Books  Palaeontology  Palaeozoology & Extinctions 

Vertebrate Taphonomy

  • No other available volume is as extensive in coverage or as explicitly geared to being a text
  • Detailed examples of how particular analytical techniques are applied and what the results signify
  • Several new insights to the underpinning assumptions of various analytic techniques in common use today

Series: Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology

By: Richard Lee Lyman(Author)

524 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, tables

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Jul 1994 | #32290 | ISBN: 0521458404
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £49.99 $68/€57 approx

About this book

Taphonomy studies the transition of organic matter from the biosphere into the geological record. It is particularly relevant to zooarchaeologists and paleobiologists, who analyse organic remains in the archaeological record in an attempt to reconstruct hominid subsistence patterns and paleoecological conditions. In this user-friendly, encyclopedic reference volume for students and professionals, R. Lee Lyman, a leading researcher in taphonomy, reviews the wide range of analytical techniques used to solve particular zooarchaeological problems, illustrating these in most cases with appropriate examples. He also covers the history of taphonomic research and its philosophical underpinnings. Logically organised and clearly written, Vertebrate Taphonomy is an important update on all previous publications on archaeological faunal remains.

"[...] a comprehensive, detailed and accurate book that will make taphonomy accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike. It is essential reading for all vertebrate palaeontologists, archaeologists and palaeoecologists and provides crucial background information for workers in other disciplines who use fossil material, especially molecular biologists attempting to extract DNA from fossil bone."
- Nature

"Vertebrate Taphonomy succeeds through a combination of clear writing, high-quality illustrations, and Lyman's encyclopedic knowledge [...] A good discussion, extensive up-to-date bibliography, and generally excellent glossary round out this highly recommended volume."
- E. Delson, Choice

" [...] bold in its wide coverage [...] Readers will see wisdom in this book, a welcome development in a field where all publications are touted as final authorities [...] fair and fluid, comprehensive and nonconfrontational [...] you leave educated and edified."
- Gary Haynes, Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology

"Lyman's book is a major scientific contribution and is both an excellent teaching tool for advanced students and a helpful guide to practicing professionals. The author successfully integrates existing knowledge and approaches from a vast array of sources [...] Moreover, the level of scholarship is excellent [...] Readers are provided with a comprehensive array of analytical alternatives and equally important, Lyman encourages readers to make their own – albeit better informed – decisions in relation to the problems."
- American Antiquity

" [...] all scientists who are interested in taphonomy or zooarchaeology can rejoice at the publication of Vertebrate Taphonomy by R. Lee Lyman [...] an enormous accomplishment for such a broadly based book [...] essential for anyone interested in taphonomy [...] This book is a gift to all zooarchaeologists [...] "
- Curtis W. Marean, Evolutionary Anthropology



1. What is taphonomy?
2. The history and structure of taphonomy
3. Taphonomy in practice and theory
4. Structure and quantification of vertebrate skeletons
5. Vertebrate mortality, skeletonization, disarticulation, and scattering
6. Accumulation and dispersal of vertebrate remains
7. Frequencies of skeletal parts
8. Butchering, bone fracturing and bone tools
9. Other biostratinomic factors
10. Burial as a taphonomic process
11. Diagenesis
12. Taphonomy of fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians
13. Discussion and conclusions


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