There are over 100,000 living species of mollusc, many of which have been important
to humans. The use of the phylum Mollusca has been documented in archaeological
sites as early as the Middle Palaeolithic. It has long been recognised that mollusc
shells are an important zooarchaeological tool for interpreting various aspects of
material culture, palaeoeconomy and the environment. Shells originating in marine,
freshwater and terrestrial environments are found in archaeological sites where they
represent subsistence resources and raw materials for the manufacture of a diverse
group of artefacts. Cross-culturally, molluscs were collected as or made into artefacts,
exchange items, grave goods, etc. with various symbolic meanings attached to them.
Mollusc exploitation is also manifested in the use of certain species for the production
of dye and construction materials. Further, mollusc shells are often used to reconstruct
the season of site occupation, as well as interpreting palaeoclimates, using isotopic
and other methods.
The mission of the ICAZ Archaeomalacology Working Group is the liberal exchange of
data and information about the phylum Mollusca in the zooarchaeological record. It
is our goal to focus our activities on molluscs in the zooarchaeological record and
to contribute to the methods and theory relevant to the analysis of such remains.
In so doing, we seek to encourage the publication of data and information concerning
the use of this very important group of animals commonly found in archaeological