ARA8117 : Archaeology of Animal Bones

Semester 1 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
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion591:0059:00Research/writing essay
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical122:0024:00Hands-on activities tied with lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching41:004:00MA seminar
Guided Independent StudySkills practice421:0042:00Practicing ID skills; on own time
Guided Independent StudyProject work591:0059:00Preparing 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
Report1M40Final report based on student analysis of a faunal assemblage
Essay1M402000-word essay
Practical/lab report1M20Identification skills quiz
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessments are geared towards helping the student successfully complete the final report, practical exam 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 and pass the practical exam. The practical exam will test the students’ identification skills. 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 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.

Reading Lists