International Council
for Archaeozoology

Archaeomalacology Working Group

 Phylum Mollusca is the second-largest phylum in existence, and many species of molluscs have been of importance to humans over the course of time. From the Paleolithic, shellfish have been utilized as a food source, and in many areas and cultures around the world, shells were important raw materials for artifact manufacture. Archaeological mollusc remains originating from marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments have been used to inform us about aspects of prehistoric and historic life such as diet, paleo-environmental, status and change, trade and exchange, and artifact production.

At the 2002 ICAZ International Conference in Durham, England, several ICAZ members who recognized the importance of molluscs in the zooarchaeological record met to discuss the formation of an Archaemalacology Working Group (AMWG). The AMWG's mission is the liberal exchange of data and information about molluscs in the archaeological record. This encompasses both methods and theories relating to the analysis of such remains as well as creating an environment where specifics could be discussed amongst a group of peers. The AMWG encourages the publication of information related to these forums.

While many AMWG members are subscribed to the more general Zooarch email list, the group also has a Facebook page, called Archaeomalacology Working Group. Our website, is managed by Matt Law ( The website hosts a newsletter, archaeo+malacology group newsletter, which appears twice a year. The newsletter was established by Janet Ridout-Sharpe in 2001, who remained the editor for 22 Issues. Matt Law is also editor of the newsletter.

The group meets every two years, alternating between symposia within ICAZ and independent meetings that include field trips.

  • August 2002: Durham, UK. Session within the ICAZ conference, coordinated by Daniella Bar-Yosef.
  • February 2005: Gainesville, Florida, USA, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, coordinated by Irv Quitmyer and Katherine Szabo.
  • August 2006: Mexico, session within ICAZ conference, coordinated by Canan Çakirlar and Victoria Stosel.
  • February 2008: Santander, Spain, under the auspices of Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas de Cantabria, coordinated by Esteban Álvarez-Fernández and Diana Carvajal-Contreras.
  • August 2010: Paris, France, session within ICAZ conference, coordinated by Katherine Szabo, Vesna Dimitrijevic, Catherine Dupont, Sándor Gulyás, Nathalie Serrand & Luis Gómez Gastélum.
  • June 2012: Cairns, Australia, coordinated by Katherine Szabo and Sean Ulm.
  • September 2014: San Rafael, Argentina. A session entitled "Molluscs as a Record of Human-Environment Relationships: Environmental Reconstructions, Impacts, and Management" was co-organized by Christina M. Giovas, Zhanna Antipushina and Catherine F. West. A second session "Global Patterns in the Exploitation of Animal-Based Raw Materials: Technological and Socio-Cultural Issues", was organized in collaboration with the Worked Bone Research Group by Natacha Buc, Annalisa Christie, Alice Choyke and Vivian Scheinsohn.
  • April 2016: Kirkwall, Orkney, UK. Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands and the Islands, organized by Annalisa Christie.
  • September 2018: Ankara, Turkey. The session "Shells of molluscs as archaeological and environmental records" was organized by Laura Le Goff.
  • September 2021: Pune, India. A Zoom meeting was organized by Arati Deshpande- Mukhergee and Pankaj Goyal, entitled "International Webinar on Molluscs and Ancient Human Societies and Meeting of the Archaeomalacology Working Group". Proceedings are as yet in preparation.

We aim to publish proceedings of all meetings. The following proceedings have been published:

  • Bar-Yosef Mayer, D.E. (ed.), 2005, Archaeomalacology: Molluscs in Former Environments of Human Behaviour. Oxbow Books, Oxford.
  • Special issue of Archaeofauna, volume 17: Molluscs and other marine resources. Guest editors: Katherine Szabo and Irv Quitmyer.
  • Special issue of Munibe, edited by Esteban Álvarez-Fernández and Diana Carvajal-Contreras.
  • Çakirlar, Canan (ed.), 2011, Archaeomalacology Revisited: Non-dietary Use of Molluscs in Archaeological Settings. Oxbow Books, Oxford.
  • Szabo K, Dupont C., Dimitrijevic V., Serrand N. and Gomez-Gastelum L. (eds.), 2014, Archaeomalacology: Shells in the archaeological record, Proceedings of the Archaeomalacology session, 11th ICAZ International Conference, BAR International Series 2666.

This information was contributed by Daniella E. Bar-Yosef Mayer (baryosef AT, AMWG Liaison to ICAZ, in June 2022.