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Santander, Spain, 2008

Organized by Esteban Álvarez-Fernández and Diana Rocío Carvajal

Following on from the success of the 1st Archaeomalacology Working Group Meeting held in Gainesville Florida, 2005, the 2nd Meeting was held in Santander, Spain, from 19-22 February 2008. The conference proceedings was published in: Álvarez Fernández, Esteban and Diana Carvajal-Contreras (eds.) 2010. Not only food: Marine, Terrestrial and Freshwater Molluscs in Archaeological Sites. Munibe supplement no. 31.

2nd Archaeomalacology Working Group Meeting –Report to ICAZ Executive Committee

by Daniella Bar-Yosef

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 dinner.

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.

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