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At the next Vossius Seminar, our Vossius fellow Ana María Gómez López will give a lecture entitled "Death at the water’s edge: Multi-species histories, aqueous environments, and the early development of taphonomy".

Detail Summary
Date 20 January 2021
Time 17:00 -18:00

If you want to join the seminar, please send an email to vossius@uva.nl with "Join Vossius seminar" in the subject header. Then we will send you a zoomlink the day before the seminar.

Ana María Gómez López

Death at the water’s edge: Multi-species histories, aqueous environments, and the early development of taphonomy

Abstract

How did taphonomy, or the study of the decay, burial, and fossilization of biological organisms, take its present methodological form? This presentation focuses on how the observation of animal decomposition, as well as the accompanying ecological and geophysical processes surrounding the reintegration of their organic matter into an environment, became a scientific subject of study. Focusing primarily on the work of German geologists and paleontologists such as Johannes Weigelt, Rudolf Richter, and Wilhelm Schäfer during the first half of the twentieth century, I identify specific strategies of representation for understanding problems in taphonomic research, such as analogue photography, mapping, and diagrammatic depictions of in-situ depositional information. Much of this work took place in coastal areas, spanning the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf Coast. These visual records trace the consolidation of “aktuo-paläontologie”—an early precursor to taphonomy, which is now a shared sub-discipline between zooarchaeology, evolutionary biology, and forensic science.