Second Archaeomalacology Working Group Meeting (Santander, 19-22 February 2008)
Report to ICAZ Executive Committee
University of Haifa
The second independent meeting of the archaeomalacology working group, co-organized
by Esteban Álvarez-Fernández and Diana Rocío Carvajal, was a huge success. Of over
100 authors and co-authors of the various papers and posters presented at the meeting,
52 participants were present in Santander. Together they presented 32 papers and
27 posters. The participants came from 13 different countries and presented research
conducted in 18 countries.
The opening lecture by Pablo Arias, director of the Institute Internacional de Investigaciones
Prehstóricas de Cantabria, the host institution, informed participants of the rich
prehistory of Cantabria (in northern Spain) and the long tradition of prehistoric
investigations in the region. Pablo later presented his research on Mesolithic shell
middens within the meeting sessions.
The papers and posters covered wide geographic areas and a broad range of topics
were presented, including: Recent advances in radiocarbon dating of mollusc shells,
shell beads and personal ornaments, shell bead production techniques and restoration
methods, shell midden site formation in prehistoric and historic periods, molluscs
as dietary elements, oyster cultivation, stable isotopes of landsnails, landsnail
populations as reflecting past environment, purple dye production, symbolic use of
shells, the shell button industry, ethnographic studies of shell exploitation, and
more. Many of the papers touched upon more than one of these topics and reflected
the multidisciplinary approach of most researchers that included various anthropological,
zoological, climatic, geological tied to the study of archaeomalacology. The presentations
were followed by stimulating discussions.
Two intensive days of papers and discussions were followed by two days of fieldtrips.
The fieldtrips offered an opportunity to visit two Asturian shell middens (El Toralete
and Cuevas del Mar), the ornate cave of Tito Bultillo, and the rock paintings and
engravings at Peña Tu. The following day participants visited the reproduction of
Altamira Cave with its painted bisons and other animals, as well as the museum and
research center at Altamira. We later visited the village of Santillana del Mar and
the Museo Marítimo del Cantábrico in Santander, where the meeting ended with a festive
The growing number of members of the archaeomalacology working group (officially
registered are 75) includes many advanced graduate students who attended this meeting.
This indicates that the field of research of mollusc shells from archaeological sites
is gaining momentum and developing into a mainstream sub-field of archaeology and
archaeozoology. The good atmosphere along with a serious attitude by all participants
motivated everyone to look forward to the next meeting.
The archaeomalacology working group plans to follow the tradition of holding a session
within the next ICAZ meeting (Paris 2010), and its next independent meeting is scheduled
for 2012. We are currently expecting the proceedings of the first independent meeting
held in Florida (February 2005) to be published as an issue of Archaeofauna this
year (2008) edited by Irv Quitmyer and Katherine Szabó. Editing of the proceedings
of the second Archaeomalacology session that was held within ICAZ Mexico (2006) by
Canan Cakirlar and Victoria Stosel is in progress, and the organizers of this recent
meeting also plan to publish the proceedings.