Zooarchaeology (ARC2504)

StaffProfessor Alan Outram - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Pre-requisitesARC1010 and ARC1020 or equivalent
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will outline the theory and practice of zooarchaeology, giving basic practical competence in the technique and a practical appreciation of observation, recording and interpretation issues. You will attain basic competence in the identification and recording of bones from some common animal species and will be gain an understanding of how to analyse such data. You will be acquainted with how bone assemblages can be interpreted to give us a fuller picture of past cultures, economies and environments in different archaeological periods.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Know key aspects of the theoretical frameworks of zooarchaeology and to apply them; learn, and know how to use, the basic terms and conventions employed in zooarchaeology
  • 2. Demonstrate basic competence in the identification of the bones of some key animal species
  • 3. Prepare and interpret primary zooarchaeological data under guidance
  • 4. Appreciate the ways in which animal bone assemblages can tell us about past cultures, economies and environment in different archaeological periods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Have a competent overview of the use and acquisition of zooarchaeological data
  • 6. Interpret a variety of information forms and assimilate/manage numerical and graphical data
  • 7. Deploy data from technical reports

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Manage data and display it graphically
  • 9. Acquire a range of observational and analytical skills which are applicable in the wider world

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Throughout the course there will be sessions related to learning the identification of key bone elements from key species.

Other topics:

  • The skeleton and nomenclature
  • Taphonomy
  • Quantification; skeletal part abundance and transport
  • Seasonality
  • Age at death from bone fusion and dental eruption and wear
  • Sexing criteria: metrical and non-metrical traits
  • Domestication and breed development
  • Reconstructing herd structures
  • Sheep/goat separation
  • Butchery, bone fracture, pathology
  • Approaches to assemblage analysis

These topics will be related to examples of cultural, economic and environmental interpretation.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Made up of approximately 11 hours of lecture and live discussion content; approximately 11 hours of guided data analysis exercises and 11 hours of guided practical engagement with archaeological bone material.
Guided independent study117Independent study for assignments and use of computer aided learning and reference resources regarding bone identification.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Skills Test20A short test of zooarchaeological key skills2, 9Return of marked test sheet
Project 1401500 words1-9Mark and written comments
Project 2401500 words1-9Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Skills TestA short test of zooarchaeological key skills2, 9Referral/Deferral period
Project 1Project 1 (1500 words)1-9Referral/Deferral period
Project 2Project 2 (1500 words)1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Davis, S.J.M. (1987). The Archaeology of Animals. London: Batsford
  • Dobney, K.M., Jaques, S.D. and Irving, B.G. (1995). Of Butchers and Breeds: report on the vertebrate remains from the City of Lincoln. Lincoln: Lincoln Archaeological Studies 5.
  • Driesch A.E. von den (1976). A Guide to the Measurement of Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites. Peabody Museum Bulletin 1.
  • Legge, A.J. and Rowley-Conwy, P.A. (1988). Star Carr Revisited. London: Centre for Extra Mural Studies.
  • Lyman, R.L. (1994). Vertebrate Taphonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Reitz, E.J. and Wing, E.A. (2008). Zooarchaeology (2 nd  Ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rowley-Conwy, P.A. Ed. (2000). Animal Bones, Human Societies. Oxford: Oxbow Monographs.

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Key words search

Zooarchaeology, Taphonomy, Animals, Zoology