Cheryl Claassen offers an authoritative, readable and clear guide to the study of shells, which is addressed to students and professional archaeologists and palaeontologists. She considers the history of archaeological interest in shells, the biology of freshwater and marine molluscs, and critically discusses current techniques, methods, and research problems. Drawing on examples worldwide, and covering prehistoric and historic periods, among the topics covered are: is shell deposit natural or cultural? How long do shells last? What can shells tell us about the environmental characteristics and ancient habitats or about the people who collected them? What symbolic roles have shells served in human societies? This is a well balanced account, and all aspects of the subject are clearly represented.
1. The archaeology of shell matrix sites; 2. Shelled animals: biology and predation; 3. Diagenesis and taphonomy; 4. Quantification of archaeological shells; 5. Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction; 6. Season of death techniques; 7. Dietary reconstruction; 8. The shell artifact; 9. Shells and social organization.