Animal bones are a common sight when dealing with archaeological assemblages and archives, so when the opportunity to attend the University of Sheffield’s Understanding Zooarchaeology I short course came up on the 17−19 January, I jumped at the chance to expand my awareness. Over the three days the course covered methods and techniques zooarchaeologists use to understand animal bone evidence; including identification of different species from their bones and teeth; learning how to age and sex bones; recognising taphonomy, butchery and pathology on bones and understanding how material is analysed and quantified.
The teaching was delivered through short lectures, hands-on practical activities and case studies presented by various members of the zooarch staff and students. I felt that the part of the course which will most benefit me on a day to day basis was the basic identification of species and recognising taphonomy, this skill will enable me to identify any unusual and interesting bones as they come off site and notify the project manager and the field staff so they can develop and adapt techniques/research questions during the course of a project. Although on the side I have also found myself in the last week noticing degrees of epiphyseal fusion and roughly estimating how old the animals might have been when they died!
The course is directed towards students, professionals and enthusiasts and does not require any previous knowledge. If you’re thinking about it then I would highly recommend it, my high expectations were exceeded by the quality and depth of the information which was presented over such a short space of time. Details of upcoming courses can be found here.
Access to the extensive reference collection is free through appointment – contact Umberto Albarella u.albarella@Sheffield.ac.uk
By Jess Irwin, Finds & Archives Officer