The University of Southampton

ARCH6127 Analysis of archaeological faunal remains

Module Overview

This module will cover the practical skills necessary to identify, record and interpret animal bones from archaeological sites as well as the techniques used for the study of animals in human life in the past. You will learn methods of identification of mammals, birds and fish, and how to age and sex skeletal remains. The module will also cover bone modification, taphonomy, quantification, metrical study and the recognition and interpretation of pathology. Special emphasis will be placed on interpreting assemblages within the context of diverse archaeological aims.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The mammalian, avian and fish skeletons
  • varying approaches to the analysis of animal bone remains
  • the use of animal bone remains as a resource for studying aspects of diet, hunting strategies, use and management of the main domestic animals, and socio-economic status.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • select appropriate means for recording and analysing data
  • evaluate and critique arguments and material
  • write clear and concise reports
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify skeletal elements of the main European domestic animals and key wild species
  • recognise the principal modifications to bone by humans and other agencies
  • integrate theoretical issues and archaeological questions with empirical zooarchaeological data
  • pose and tackle archaeological questions using zooarchaeological data
  • write zooarchaeological reports suitable for publication
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • observe and visually identify mammalian, avian and fish bones
  • evaluate results of zooarchaeological analyses and studies
  • critique zooarchaeological data and interpretations derived from it
  • demonstrate command of literature and critical thinking
  • present information clearly and concisely


The module syllabus will typically include the following components: - The mammal skeleton: anatomy and evolution - Properties and growth of bones: epiphyseal fusion - Taphonomy: the formation of archaeological bone assemblages - The measurement of animal bones: methods and purposes - Animal bone quantification: a critical review of the main methods - The ageing of animals through tooth eruption and wear - The avian skeleton and the analysis of bird bones - The ‘animal bone report’: aims and methods - The fish skeleton - Ancient DNA studies in Osteoarchaeology - Social issues in Zooarchaeology (socio-economic status, ritual, ethnicity)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Laboratory study: practical work developing identification and analysis skills - Lectures detailing aspects of skeletal identification or methodology - Seminars Learning activities include - Laboratory study (practical work) - Seminars - Portfolio preparation - Summative bone identification tests

Practical classes and workshops32
Completion of assessment task52
Wider reading or practice50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Wheeler, A. and A. K. G. Jones (1989). Fishes. 

O'Connor, T.P (2000). The archaeology of animal bones. 

Lyman, R. L. (1994). Vertebrate taphonomy. 

Baker, J. and Brothwell, D. (1980). Animal Diseases in Archaeology. 

Brain, C. K (1981). Hunters or the Hunted? An introduction to African cave taphonomy. 

Serjeantson, D. (2009). Birds. 

Binford L. R. (1981). Bones : Ancient Men and Modern Myths. 

O’Connor, T.P. (2003). The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages. 

Reitz, E. J. and E. S. Wing (2008). Zooarchaeology. 

Wilson, B., C. Grigson and S. Payne (Eds.) (1982). Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites. 

Davis S. J. M. (1987). The Archaeology of Animals. 

Driesch A. von den (1976). A guide to the measurement of animal bones from archaeological sites. 


Assessment Strategy

Bones test = For each quiz, students will be asked to identify 12-15 animal bone specimens; they will have 1.5 mins per specimen and will be required to identify skeletal element, taxonomic species, side of the body, proximal and distal epiphyseal fusion and – in quizzes carried out after learning the topic – any taphonomical modifications. Quizzes will be carried out in the Mammal Osteology laboratory Portfolio = Students will collect, organise and present items that will help them in the identification, ageing, sexing and recording of zooarchaeological remains; these should include images (e.g. annotated photos / drawings), notes, tables, etc).


MethodPercentage contribution
Bone tests 45%
Portfolio 10%
Report  (1500 words) 45%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Facebook Google+ Twitter Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.