Charles A. Reed

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The archeologist who is prehistorian may expect snail shells in his excavations. Sometimes, even though the site may be far from the nearest seas, such shells are marine and often were used as decorations, indicating the continuity of human vanity through the ages. Generally, the archeologist has had little interest in such shells as snails, or even in the generic and specific identifications furnished him by a malacologist; instead, the archeologist is interested in any cultural uses of the shells, and is intrigued by problems of their geographic origin and the possibility of tracing prehistoric trade routes. However, to the ecologically-oriented archeologists and the various natural scientists with them working the past fifteen years in Iraq and Iran, some of the local terrestrial snails have become of prime interest, particularly as potential indicators of past environmental conditions (including climate), and as a source of food for past populations. Thus the continued presence in archeological sites of the same species of snails in the same localities in northern Iraq, for periods sometimes measured in the tens of thousands of years, has been used, with other evidence, to make a tentative reconstruction of the environments of that area over those periods (Reed and Braidwood, 1960).