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Soft-bodied invertebrate animals often, but not always, living inside (or bearing) a shell. The phylum Mollusca is divided into five classes: Amphineura (the Chitons), Gastropoda (snails and slugs), Scaphopoda (Elephant’s Tusk shells), Lamellibranchiata (bivalve molluscs, such as mussels, clams, oysters), Cephalopoda (octopus and squids). With the exception of the gastropods, most of these groups are aquatic. Shells of gastropods and lamellibranchs are frequently found on archaeological sites. Coastal sites may incorporate deposits bearing large numbers of shells from marine members of these classes. Shells also remain from the exploitation of these animals for food. Large ‘middens’, consisting mostly of the shells of marine lamellibranchs, are found on Mesolithic coastal sites in northwest Europe. Shells were also used for decoration. The shells of land snails may also be found incorporated into buried soils and deposits. These are most useful for environmental reconstruction.

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied