It’s all Talk, Talk, Talk…

The first gathering of British zooarchaeologists in 2012 takes place this coming Saturday (4th February) in London.  The latest Professional Zooarchaeology Group meeting will be held in the Museum of London Archaeology offices with the focus this time placed on “Unusual Deposits”.  I’ll be presenting a short case-study there, entitled “When the Unusual is the Normal”, focusing on the zooarchaeology of Mongolian khrigsuur monuments.

January has also seen the firming up of a couple of schedules for some of the bigger conferences to take place in 2012.  The 11th biennial SAfA (Society of Africanist Archaeologists) meeting takes place in Toronto from June 20th-23rd. Sadly I’m unable to attend as I’ll be away conducting fieldwork at the time.  It’s one of my favourite conferences though as it always has a lovely atmosphere and some interesting sessions and I will be there in spirit as my poster presentation entitled “iCommunication in African Zooarchaeology” (collaborating with Jim Morris) has been accepted for exhibition in absentia. This presentation was previously aired at AARD 2011 and a copy a copy is available on my Academia profile (a copy of the abstract was given in a previous post here entitled Digital Africa).

The other schedule that is being firmed up is that of the 18th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA).  This year, the conference will take place in Helsinki from 29th August – 1st September.  I’m very pleased to be collaborating with Ben Jervis and Idoia Grau Sologestoa to organise a session, I’ve known them both for some years but this is the first time that we’ve worked together in any capacity.  The session aims to take a holistic view to the study of urban environments in Mediaveal Europe and will bring material and environmental scientists together for a dialogue that happens all too rarely in archaeology, in order to discuss common research themes and problems.  The session is entitled “Life in the City: Environmental and Artefactual Approaches to Urban Europe in the Middle Ages” and should be open for online submission of papers from the 8th February.  Anyone who thinks they may be interested in presenting at this session is encouraged contact us as early as possible to discuss their ideas rather than waiting for the online portal to open.  A full copy of the session abstract is given below.

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Life in the City: Environmental and Artefactual approaches to Urban Europe in the Middle Ages

Traditional approaches to the study of medieval urbanism have focussed upon the reconstruction of town plans and the study of trade and craft activity. The wider potential of environmental and artefactual remains has not been fully realised. The aim of this session is to explore the range of insights that detailed study of these remains can provide in exploring, for example:

• The levels of similarity and difference between urban and rural living. Did a continuum or a dichotomy emerge through everyday life in these different environments? How did engagements with objects and the environment contribute to a uniquely urban existence? Did urbanism foster a worldview which saw similar material and environmental objects have different symbolic meanings?

• How did experiences of urban life vary between individuals and households, based, for example, on their wealth, ethnicity, gender or profession?

• How did experiences of urban life vary between towns, for example, through the exposure of members of their population to international influences?

• The level of mutual dependence between urban and rural communities. How interdependent were towns and their hinterlands and cities and their regions (including smaller towns)?

• How can artefactual and/or environmental evidence help us understand the social structure of towns and cities?

The range of papers in this session will not only allow us to explore these themes using a variety of evidence, but to consider regional and temporal differences in experiences of urban life across Europe. Papers which combine different strands of evidence, to explore the role of artefactual and/or environmental assemblages in answering these questions are particularly encouraged.

By moving beyond the characterisation of urban landscapes, this session will begin to question what it was to be urban in medieval Europe, whether a single conceptualisation of this phenomenon can be reached, or if instead the study of this material leads to an acknowledgement of heterogeneity.


Sheffield Short Course Returns

Understanding Zooarchaeology: A Short Course for Archaeology and Heritage Professionals and Enthusiasts, is to be taught at the University of Sheffield again on 18th-20th April 2012

This course was a tremendous success when it was launched a little over a year ago – so much so that it ended up being repeated twice more in 2011.  Over three days a large team of zooarchaeologists, including myself, will introduce participants to the methods that can be used to gather information from archaeological animal bones and the relevance of these remains to wider archaeological study.

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, as well as those with a recreational interest in archaeology and/or zoology.

Tuition fees for the course are £150 waged, £100 unwaged/student/retired.

For more information and to register, please e-mail us on: or

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All Aboard the Tanganyika Train*

This is just a quick update to announce that we have received National Geographic Society funding for the Archaeological Investigation of a “Moving Frontier” of Early Herding in Northern Tanzania project.  This funding will aid us in the field this year as well as ensure that we can carry out thorough post-excavation analysis on any material we excavate.  Naturally we are all delighted.

Further information on this project can be found in the Project Gallery.

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*Tanganiyka Trains are what we always called Archispirostreptus gigas (the giant African millipede) when I was growing up,