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At the next Vossius Seminar, our Vossius fellow Ana María Gómez López will give a lecture entitled "Death at the water’s edge: Multi-species histories, aqueous environments, and the early development of taphonomy".

Detail Summary
Date 20 January 2021
Time 17:00 -18:00

If you want to join the seminar, please send an email to with "Join Vossius seminar" in the subject header. Then we will send you a zoomlink the day before the seminar.

Ana María Gómez López

Death at the water’s edge: Multi-species histories, aqueous environments, and the early development of taphonomy


How did taphonomy, or the study of the decay, burial, and fossilization of biological organisms, take its present methodological form? This presentation focuses on how the observation of animal decomposition, as well as the accompanying ecological and geophysical processes surrounding the reintegration of their organic matter into an environment, became a scientific subject of study. Focusing primarily on the work of German geologists and paleontologists such as Johannes Weigelt, Rudolf Richter, and Wilhelm Schäfer during the first half of the twentieth century, I identify specific strategies of representation for understanding problems in taphonomic research, such as analogue photography, mapping, and diagrammatic depictions of in-situ depositional information. Much of this work took place in coastal areas, spanning the North Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf Coast. These visual records trace the consolidation of “aktuo-paläontologie”—an early precursor to taphonomy, which is now a shared sub-discipline between zooarchaeology, evolutionary biology, and forensic science.

About the researcher

Ana María Gómez López is an artist and researcher whose practice centers on durational works based on self-experimentation and archival research in history of science. Her projects use botanical specimens, prosthetic implants, medical equipment, lens-based media, and recorded sound to expand understandings of corporeal selfhood. Ana María’s works have been exhibited at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, the Fonds d’art contemporain Genève, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and the American University Museum, among others. She has held fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for History of Science, the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, and the Center for Experimental Museology of the V-A-C Foundation. In 2015, she was awarded the Premio Nacional de Artes (National Award in the Arts) by the Universidad de Antioquia and the Colombian Ministry of Culture.

An anthropologist with undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Ana María completed her MFA at the Yale University School of Art and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She was a former resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (2017-2018), and is currently an artist-in-residence at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences.