Introducing Archaeology and Prehistory
This chapter discusses the ways in which archaeologists reconstruct ancient subsistence. To establish entire ancient diets is often near-impossible, except when isotopic analysis on bones can be used or human coprolites are available. The chapter describes zooarchaeology, the study of animal bones, the identification of animals, the study of butchering methods, and comparing different assemblages. It turns to botanical remains and flotation methods before briefly surveying ways of studying birds, fish, and mollusks. The chapter assesses ways in which rock art can throw light on ancient subsistence. The archaeological evidence for prehistoric subsistence consists of artifacts and food remains. South African archaeologist David Lewis-Williams and others have used oral traditions and nineteenth-century ethnographies to develop interpretations of some of the rituals depicted in the paintings. The Stone Age paintings of southern Africa have long been known not only for their representations of important symbolic rituals in hunter-gatherer life but also for their depictions of life in prehistoric times.