Shellfish are a crucial resource for past and present subsistence-level societies around the world. Despite the diversity of environments in which shellfish are exploited, an examination of the global patterns of shellfish exploitation reveal surprisingly common patterns in the opportunities allowed and constraints imposed by relying on shellfish. These commonalities, linked to the fundamental features of shellfish and their exploitation, can illuminate diverse social and ecological factors likely to influence variability in their archaeological signatures. Here we review contributions to this special issue and explore common trends in shellfish use and its archaeological consequences.
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