Understanding Time in Taphonomy: A 30-Year Field Study in Wales

Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, London
Many palaeontologists and archaeologists study the end products of fossilisation, but rarely think about the processes that led to that end product, what was lost along the way, and how long the processes took. Peter and Yolanda have spent much of their research careers carefully recording the neglected, but earliest stages of that process, and in this valuable and profusely illustrated book, they lay out their findings so far from a rural study area in Wales.

Isabel Cáceres, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona (URV), IPHES
When genius, expertise, and passion for Taphonomy converge, books like this come up. Only two great masters of Taphonomy like Peter Andrews and Yolanda Fernández-Jalvo could address such a crucial aspect of the fossilization process as TIME is. The actualistic works developed through long periods to know how taphonomic modifications occur and evolve are scarce, so this book is key to understanding the time scale of past events.

Graham Avery, University of Cape Town, South Africa
I am delighted to see that Nova is publishing the eagerly-awaited results of Peter Andrews’s and Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo’s groundbreaking 30-year project monitoring taphonomic changes registered on bones of naturally-dead animals at Neuadd in Wales. This book follows their acclaimed book Owls Caves and Fossils (1990) on the taphonomy of owl and small mammal prey residues, and will provide observations on temperate conditions and contexts that can be compared with those from East Africa.
Both authors are outstanding pioneers in the field of taphonomy and have made significant contributions to taphonomy and palaeontology through their insightful projects and observations, which have earned them well-deserved international reputations.

Briana Pobiner, Smithsonian Institution
Peter Andrews and Yolanda Fernández-Jalvo continue to be leaders in the field of taphonomy. There are very few long-term studies of taphonomic processes of animals that have died natural deaths, which makes the information contained in this book a unique and important contribution to this field. The comparison they make of the process of weathering in a temperate environment is particularly useful, as the only other major longitudinal study of weather has been done in a tropical environment.

Mikael Fortelius, University of Helsinki, Finland
Peter Andrews and Yolanda Fernández-Jalvo are without question the most luminous stars of experimental taphonomy today. Their long-term experiments address questions that have long remained without answer and the long-awaited results promise nothing less than a new synthesis of taphonomic understanding at the process level. If ever there was a book on taphonomy that I wanted to read, it is this one.

Christiane Denys, Museum of Natural History, Paris
The authors provide the results of 30 years of monitoring and observations of taphonomic processes occurring in temperate environment. This is the first long-term study to explore the role of climate and soil through time on natural bone accumulations, as well as soil factors affecting them during burial. Such type of experimental taphonomy approach brings advances to better understand the role of taphonomic agents and distinguish between predators, humans, and climate modifications on bones’ surfaces. It is fundamental work for all student and researchers in palaeontology and archaeology.

María A. Gutiérrez, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, Olavarría, Argentina
Time really matters, and this is no longer just a phrase, as Peter and Yolanda have demonstrated with clear scientific evidence. Neuadd in Wales worked as an optimal laboratory to measure time-specific taphonomic modifications on animals that died naturally. Thirty years of systematic observations constitute a valuable tool that will serve as a baseline for a better understanding of the formation of the fossil record. As members of the scientific community, we should feel fortunate and grateful that Peter and Yolanda put all this information together in a book and that they decided to share it with us. I am sure that their results will motivate to generate similar projects where new questions, methodologies, and answers will be integrated to strengthen our interpretations of a past that we did not witness. I am happy to learn that Peter and Yolanda lead this journey through time.

Claudia Montalvo, Universidad Nacional de la Pampa, Uruguay
The aspects that they analyze in this new book result in very important interest for actualistic works and fossil evaluations. I have no doubt that this book will be a fundamental tool in future evaluations. I celebrate its publication.