(View exact match)snailCATEGORY: fauna
DEFINITION: A gastropod, especially one having an enclosing shell, into which it may retract completely for protection. Land snail shells are frequently preserved in buried soils, the fills of ditches, and other deposits over limestone subsoils and sometimes fill a gap in environmental reconstruction. Other species are: shade-loving snails, open-country snails, and intermediate or catholic species that live in a variety of habitats - including many of the more common species of snail. Using these categories of snail ecology, the relative frequencies of shell fragments from different species, extracted from deposits and soils, can be used to reconstruct ancient environments.
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CapsianSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Capsian industry, Capsian Neolithic
DEFINITION: A Mesolithic/Stone Age (8000 BC-2700 BC) cultural complex prominent in inland northern Africa near the present border between Tunisia and Algeria. Its shell midden sites are in the area of the great salt lakes of what is now southern Tunisia, the type site being Jabal al-Maqta'. The tool kit of the Capsian is a classic example of the industries of the late Würm Glacial Period and it is apparently related to the Gravettian stage of Europe's Perigordian industry (which dates from about 17,000 years ago). However, it occurs in Neothermal (postglacial) times and, like its predecessor, the Ibero-Maurusian industry (Oranian industry), the Capsian was a microlithic tool complex. It differed from the Ibero-Maurusian, however, in having a far more varied tool kit with large backed blades, scrapers, backed bladelets, microburins, and burins in its earlier phase and a gradual development of geometric microliths later. These became its leading feature by the 6th millennium BC. Shortly after 5000 BC, pottery and domesticated animals were introduced. Some North African rock paintings are attributed to people of the Capsian industry. The Capsian Neolithic, with pointed-base pottery and a stone industry, lasted from c 6200-5300 BP, in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and the northern Sahara. The name derives from Capsa, the Latin form of Gafsa, a town in south central Tunisia where such artifacts were first discovered. Hunting and snail-collecting seem to have formed the basis of the economy. Human remains from Capsian sites are mostly of Mechta-Afalou type.ChilcaCATEGORY: site
DEFINITION: A site in the coastal valley south of modern Lima, Peru, where excavations have revealed settlements dating to the Pre-Ceramic period c 4200 BC. The Chilca Monument was originally a summer camp and later, due to an increasingly warm climate, became favorable for a subsistence pattern called encanto. There are remains of conical huts of cane thatched with sedge. The dead were buried wrapped in twined-sedge mats and the skins of the guanaco. The lomas, patches of vegetation outside the valleys that were watered at that season by fogs, began to dry up. The lomas had provided wild seeds, tubers, and large snails; and deer, guanaco, owls, and foxes were hunted. The camps were eventually abandoned c 2500 BC in favor of permanent fishing villages. Dolichocephalic human remains date to this period but appear ultimately to have been replaced by brachycephalic types some time after 2500 BC.cowrieSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: cowry
CATEGORY: artifact; fauna
DEFINITION: A variety of spiral shell from marine snails of the genus Cypraea, in which the opening is reduced to a slit running the length of one side. The humped, thick shell is beautifully colored (often speckled) and glossy; the apertural lips, which open into the first whorl in the shell, are rolled inward and may be fine-toothed. Its popularity in antiquity seems to depend on its use as a symbol of the female vulva. It was widely traded, larger species being imported into Europe from as far as the Red Sea. A cowrie-shaped amulet, known from Predynastic Egypt, was called a cowroid.environmental archaeologyCATEGORY: branch
DEFINITION: A subfield of archaeology which is the study of the environment in archaeological contexts. It includes not only the study of past flora (pollen analysis, palaeobotany, palaeoethnobotany, archaeobotany), and fauna (archaeozoology), but also that of insects (insect analysis), fish (fish bone analysis), and snail shells (molluscan analysis). All are studied in an attempt to recover the total environment of a past society and to understand man's impact on, and changes to, that environment. It is a field in which interdisciplinary research, involving archaeologists and natural scientists. Many disciplines are involved in this study: climatology, Quaternary geology, soil science, palaeobotany, zoology, and human biology.flotationCATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A technique developed to assist in the recovery of plant, insect, and molluscan remains from archaeological deposits; a method of screening in which minute pieces of flora are separated from the soil by agitation with water. The technique works on the principle that organic material such as carbonized seeds, snail-shells, and beetle wing-cases have a lower specific gravity than inorganic materials such as soil and stone, and will thus float on the top of a suitable liquid medium while the rest will sink. Water is commonly used for flotation, though there are disadvantages since it has a fairly low specific gravity and heavier material such as fruit stones will sink. Other media have been used, such as carbon tetrachloride solution or zinc chloride solution. Flotation of samples by hand is called wet sieving. Samples of material are slowly poured into water, any lumps are broken up, and the flot is drawn off with a sieve. The method is more controlled than flotation by machine, and the recovery rate is better. For large-scale excavations, machines are used. Operating principles vary: samples are poured into a large container of water, or water and paraffin, which is agitated by air injection or by currents of inflowing water. The addition of a floculating agent increases surface tension, though not all machines are 'froth flotation' machines. The flot is carried off the surface through a mesh, or series of meshes to allow preliminary sorting. Samples retrieved are sent away for specialist identification and analysis by an archaeobotanist.lomasCATEGORY: geography
DEFINITION: Patches of vegetation outside of valleys that were watered at that season by fogs. The Peruvian coast was covered with areas of this type of vegetation which could live off the moisture from the fog in the air. Lomas were created as a result of climatic shift at end of Pleistocene. Lomas culture was developed in these areas by hunters who turned to exploitation of this vegetation as their economic basis. They set up seasonally occupied camps during the winter months. The lomas provided wild seeds, tubers, and large snails; deer, camelids (probably guanaco), owls, and foxes were hunted. Milling stones, manos, mortars, pestles, and projectile points frequently occur in the assemblages. Around 2500 BC, a further climatic change made much of the lomas dry up, and the area became a desert. Lomas sites were abandoned in favor of permanent settlement at the littoral zone along the coast, where maritime resources were exploited. The deposits are not thick enough to show stratification, but they have been arranged in chronological order by comparing the implement types and noting their distribution within the shrinking patches of vegetation.molluscan analysisCATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: The analysis of molluscan remains, of both marine and land species, as part of the examination of the environment of man. A mollusk/mollusc is any of a large phylum (Mollusca) of invertebrate animals (as snails, clams, or squids) with a soft unsegmented body usually enclosed in a calcareous shell. Edible species yield information on the subsistence economy of certain groups; in most cases it is the shells which survive. The analysis of marine mollusks involves separation of the shells from the sample by wet sieving, and the identification of varieties. The occurrence of mounds of discarded shell debris in shell middens also allows for a clear understanding of the collecting patterns, seasonal use, and preferences of man in the marine region. Land snails are increasingly used as an adjunct to pollen and insect analysis in attempts to reconstruct past environments.molluskSYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: mollusc, snail shell
DEFINITION: Any of a large phylum (Mollusca) of invertebrate animals (as snails, clams, or squids) with a soft unsegmented body usually enclosed in a calcareous shell. Often occurring in calcareous deposits, they may give useful information if associated with archaeological remains. A group may give an indication of environmental conditions and general climatic conditions. More tentatively, a deposit containing mollusks may be dated against the geological scale. The phylum Mollusca is divided into five classes: Amphineura (chitons), Gastropoda (snails and slugs), Scaphopoda (elephant's tusk shells), Lamellibranchiata (bivalve mollusks, such as mussels, clams, oysters), and Cephalopoda (octopus and squids). With the exception of the gastropods, most of these groups are aquatic; shells of gastropods and lamellibranchs are frequently found on archaeological sites. Shells also remain from the exploitation of these animals for food, most often found in middens found near coastal sites. Land snails are increasingly used as an adjunct to pollen and insect analysis in attempts to reconstruct past environments.murexCATEGORY: fauna
DEFINITION: A mainly tropical marine snails of the family Muricidae (subclass Prosobranchia of the class Gastropoda); the elongated or heavy shell is elaborately spined or frilled. Found in the Mediterranean, the seashell which provided the purple dye for which the Phoenicians were famous (royal Tyrian purple). It also was used on the painted pottery of the Minoans.wet sievingCATEGORY: technique
DEFINITION: A method used to separate organic material (seeds, snails, insects, etc.) from soil before drying, identification, and analysis. It is a more time-consuming method of extraction than flotation by machine, but has the advantage of being more accurate in its results since there is more control over extraction from the sample. The sample is poured into a sieve in a bowl of water, the lumps of soil are carefully broken up, and the organic material is trapped in the mesh while the soil particles are removed.