Osteoarchaeology

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Osteoarchaeology is the scientific study of bone recovered from archaeological sites. Bones from mammals, fish and birds can remain preserved in the ground in favourable conditions for a long period of time, and can be recovered in large quantities from archaeological investigations. These remains can tell us a great deal about animal husbandry, peoples diets, trade and commerce and whether they were involved in specific industries. 
 
When human remains are encountered on archaeological sites they must be treated with dignity and respect, and dealt with in line with current legislation. Human remains can provide us with a great deal of information, even if they have been cremated. As well as leaning about the individuals themselves from their sex, health and age of death we can learn about belief systems and ritual connotations by looking at the methods of burial.  
 
With experts in human, animal, bird and fish remains Wessex Archaeology can provide a comprehensive identification, analysis and reporting service. Having experts available quickly means that the quality of excavation and recording is improved. Where there are particularly important finds the experts provide on-site advice and assistance.
 
Our in house human osteologist team includes Jackie McKinley who is one of the foremost experts in this field. Identification of human remains, their excavation, handling, cleaning and storage can be provided by Jackie or under her supervision. Her work on cremated remains is considered the best in Europe, she has pioneered methodologies for the recovery and analysis of human bone and she has published numerous papers on the subject.
 
With in-house reference collections and professional photography, access to X-ray facilities, isotope and DNA analysis, Wessex Archaeology provides the complete service.
 

Key Capabilities

  • Identification of human remains
  • On site advice & assistance with recovery of human remains
  • Excavation of human & animal bone assemblages including cemetery clearance
  • Cleaning, packaging & storage
  • Assessment, analysis & publication