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ARA8117 : Archaeology of Animal Bones

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Eric Tourigny
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This course addresses the in-depth analysis of one of the most common finds recovered from archaeological excavations: animal bones. It covers a selection of methods employed by zooarchaeologists in their efforts to reconstruct the past relationships formed between people and animals. These include the reconstruction of subsistence strategies, animal-husbandry practices, trade networks and socio-cultural dynamics. Faunal remains can also identify how people interacted daily with non-human animals and their local environments. Through a series of hands-on activities, the course teaches students how to identify animal bones commonly recovered from British archaeological sites and how to apply an appropriate range of basic zooarchaeological methods typically used to address the core research goals of the discipline.

-To introduce students to basic and advanced methods employed in the identification and analysis of animal bones recovered from archaeological sites.
-To teach students the goals of zooarchaeology and how archaeologists use faunal data to reconstruct past human diets and human-animal relationships.
-To illustrate how faunal remains are transformed by taphonomic processes.
-To familiarise students to quantification and statistical methods related to the analysis of animal bones
-To familiarise students with the process of collecting faunal data and writing faunal reports.
-To provide students with the necessary knowledge to critically evaluate different zooarchaeological approaches

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will cover the following topics. (These are intended as a guide only. Week by week topics may slightly differ):

•       Introduction to module; goals of zooarchaeology; basics of identification
•       Skeletal Anatomy – Axial and appendicular skeletons
•       Teeth and skeletal commonalities between taxonomic groups
•       Taphonomy and sampling strategies
•       Bone modification and butchery
•       Determining sex and age
•       Quantification – Species present
•       Quantification – Body part representation
•       Measuring bones
•       Animal health and disease
•       Biomolecular zooarchaeology

In addition, Masters seminars will provide students with a more critical understanding of zooarchaeological practice and discussions of advanced analytical techniques. These seminars will encourage students to take a more critical review of the scientific literature.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00online lecture materials in advance of practical session- Counts towards contact hours
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion601:0060:00Research/writing essay
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical112:0022:00present-in person, Hands-on activities tied with lectures
Guided Independent StudySkills practice301:0030:00Practicing ID skills; on own time
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00present in person, seminar
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities121:0012:00seminar readings - online lecture materials in advance of practical session.
Guided Independent StudyProject work611:0061:00Preparing report
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
ARA3117The Archaeology of Animal Bones
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Class meetings include both lecture and practical components. Students are introduced to new methods or techniques relating to the identification/analysis of animal bones and are then immediately provided with practical exercises that allow them to put the newly learned information into practice. These practicals and related formative assignments directly help students develop the skills needed to successfully complete their report and essay, thus meeting the stated learning outcomes.
Masters seminars will include group discussions geared towards the critical review of assigned readings and/or include additional demonstrations related to advanced identification and analysis of animal bones.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M50Final report based on student analysis of a faunal assemblage 2000 words
Essay2A502000-word essay
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Lab exercise2MN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessments are geared towards helping the student successfully complete the final report and research essay, thus meeting the intended knowledge and skills outcomes. Formative lab assignments are given throughout the term in order to encourage students to progressively gather the skills and data necessary to complete the final report. The report requires students to identify and analyse an archaeological faunal assemblage using the appropriate zooarchaeological methods that were introduced to them over the course of the module. Successful completion of the report will demonstrate the student’s understanding of the goals and methods of zooarchaeology and enhance their research skills through the production, analysis and synthesis of original data.

A formative assessment will provide early feedback on your identification skills prior to submission of identifications as part of the report.

A 2000-word essay will give students the opportunity to further explore one of the broader research topics introduced in class while making explicit use of zooarchaeological data drawn from critically-examined case studies. Successful essays will demonstrate the student’s understanding of zooarchaeology as a tool to investigate past economic and/or social behaviours while improving their research, information retrieval and information technology skills. Essays are expected to draw from topics discussed in class and in seminars as well as from additional readings required for the module.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam -
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only -
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only -
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists