Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Mark James Thompson
Taphonomy is the study of processes by which organic remains and traces are incorporated into the fossil record. The term is derived from Greek roots: taphos , meaning burial, and nomos , meaning law. Taphonomy is the subdiscipline of paleontology and archaeology predominantly concerned with the characteristics and context of fossil remains, in which the challenge of deciphering information from ancient remnants is considerable. The rigors of death, transport, and burial severely modify and degrade organic remains to cause information loss: loss of original chemistry, loss of original size and shape, and loss of biological context. Only rarely do geologic processes stem this loss and preserve the remains of an individual or assemblage as a fossil. By then, the richness and diversity of a living ecosystem has become a few bones or shells scattered along a thin layer of silt-stone. By measuring, mapping, and understanding the way dead vertebrate, invertebrate ...