Understanding Zooarchaeology Shortcourse

I’ll be helping with the teaching once again on the final ‘Understanding Zooarchaeology’ short course of 2011. It will run from 12th – 14th September 2011 at the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield.

The course is designed for people with little or no previous experience in zooarchaeology, and is an ideal introduction to the field for archaeologists, museum curators and other heritage professionals who come across animal bones and/or zooarchaeological reports in their professional capacity. Through short lectures, discussions and hands on practical workshops, the course will give the participants practical experience of zooarchaeological methods and will help you to understand the archaeological potential and limitations of zooarchaeology, enhancing your ability to critically interpret archaeological animal bone data.

For students the short course will provide a firm basis for further training and is a great opportunity to improve your employability by broadening the types of archaeological evidence you have skills in and experience using. Zooarchaeologists at the early stages of their careers may also be interested.

Tuition fees for the course are £150 waged, £100 unwaged/student/retired. For more information and to register, please visit our website: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/archaeology/research/zooarchaeology/short-course.html or e-mail us.


How Can Different Methods of Deadstock Disposal Inform Zooarchaeologists About Past Taphonomies?

I’ll be presenting a case study on Carcass disposal and inter-site variability at the PZG workshop on Taphonomy: spotting it, recording it, and making sense of it… at the University of York on Saturday the 16th of July.  This presentation will compare ethnographic research carried out in Ethiopia and Mongolia and the different uses these have been put to in interpreting archaeological assemblages.


The field season in Khanuy delivered some good data, and it was nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  Several articles for publication are planned from the results of this research and updates will appear here as they become available.

Among many emails awaiting me when I returned was one from the organisers of this year’s AEA conference in Amsterdam on 21st-22nd October this year, informing me that my presentation had been accepted.  A copy of the abstract can be found below:

Make Do and Spend

The development of towns and cities occurs in relation to their region – that is not only their hinterland but the wider province for which they are the cultural, religious and economic centre. Often, these regions are difficult to determine archaeologically and with animal products forming the largest sector of the pre-industrial economy their analysis might be seen as one potential way in which to do so. Such analysis might lead not only to the re-evaluation of economies, but also to a more refined understanding of social gradation within urban societies.

The characterisation of archaeological sites by affluence and social standing is commonly accorded following analysis of zooarchaeological material and (sic) subsistence. This kind of classification has been successfully demonstrated numerous times on Mediaeval sites but presents specific problems on Mediaeval urban sites where the mixing of material from several different family (and thus social) units is probable.

This paper uses the zooarchaeological assemblage from Mediaeval Exeter (UK) to suggest that such considerations of social status may be applicable within urban assemblages, just as they are between rural assemblages. Individuals and families with the widest contacts and social and economic importance within a city’s region might be supposed to consume a greater proportion of higher status foodstuffs, such as wild animals in the Mediaeval period. Conversely, those of lowest status probably subsisted to a greater extent on what food they could produce themselves – within British Mediaeval cites this was most commonly the raising of pigs. Social and economic status in-between these two extremes could be characterised by the purchasing of livestock held to be common and low status in rural areas, such as cows and sheep, not raised within cities themselves.

The analysis of the urban zooarchaeological assemblage presented here aims to show the proportions of urban subsistence, hinterland subsistence and delicacy procurement within a city’s wider province, and hence the proportions of the population which might fall into the self-sufficient (producing) base, the procuring wealthy (with province-wide contacts and status) and those in-between – that is, those that ‘make do’ and those that ‘spend’. This kind of analysis, though stopping short of the identification of social units, may suggest the social balance characteristic of developing cities and the intra-urban subsistence and extra-urban surplus levels necessary for such a community – the demand-supply feedback loop which enables and drives the development of urban centres and their regions.