The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6110 Zooarchaeology

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.

Aims and Objectives

This module aims to deliver key skills and knowledge about the osteoarchaeology of animals.
Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the mammalian, avian and fish skeletons
  • animals in the past

Cognitive (thinking) 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 the literature and critical thinking
  • present information clearly and concisely

Practical (subject specific) 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

Key transferable skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • select appropriate means for recording and analysing data
  • write detailed reports (suitable for publication)
  • undertake oral presentations
  • lead seminars and discussion groups


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, 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.

Special Features

The module will provide students with the expertise to write technical reports on faunal remains. The ability to analyse and compose such reports increases the employability of students within contract archaeology as faunal specialists.  

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:48
Private study hours:252
Total study time: 300 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include

  • Laboratory study
  • Lectures
  • Seminars

Learning activities include

  • Laboratory study
  • Seminars
  • Portfolio preparation

Resources and reading list

Ashby, S. P. 2002. The role of zooarchaeology in the interpretation of socio-economic status: a discussion with reference to medieval Europe. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 18, 37-59.

Baker, J. and Brothwell, D. 1980. Animal Diseases in Archaeology. London: Academic Press.

Binford, L.R. 1981. Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths. New York: Academic Press.

Davis, S.J.M. 1987. The Archaeology of Animals. London: Batsford.

Clutton-Brock, C. 1999. A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals (2nd Edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Daróczi-Szabó L.  2004. Animal bones as indicators of kosher food refuse from 14th century AD Buda, Hungary. In: Jones O'Day et al (eds.) Behaviour behind bones: the zooarchaeology of ritual, religion, status and identity. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 252-261.

Helmer D. & Vigne J.-D. 2007. - Was milk a "secondary product" in the Old World. Neolithisation process? Its role in the domestication of cattle, sheep goats. Anthropozoologica 42 (2): 9-40.

Lyman, R.L. 1994. Vertebrate Taphonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lyman, R.L. 2008. Quantitative Palaeozoology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marean C. W. Kim S. Y. 1998. Mousterian Large-Mammal Remains from Kobeh Cave: Behavioral Implications for Neanderthals Early Modern Humans. Current Anthropology  39: 79-113.

Miracle, P. and Milner, N. (eds.) 2002. Consuming Passions and Patterns of Consumption. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monograph.

O'Connor, T.P. 2000. The Archaeology of Animals Bones. Gloucester: Sutton.

O'Connor, T.P. 2003. The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages. Council for British Archaeology.

Reitz, E.J. and Wing, E.S. 2008. Zooarchaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Russell, N. 2011. Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Serjeantson, D. 2009. Birds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Serjeantson, D. and Waldron, T. 1989. Diet and Craft in Towns. Oxford: BAR British Series 199.

Vigne J.-D., Helmer D., Peters J., 2005. Introduction: The first steps of animal domestication: New archaeozoological approaches. In: Vigne J.-D., Peters J., Helmer D. (eds.), The first steps of animal domestication: New archaeozoological approaches. Oxbow Books, pp. 1-16.

Wheeler, A. and Jones, A.K.G. 1989. Fishes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, B.; Grigson, C. and Payne, S. (eds.) 1982. Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites. Oxford: BAR.

Woolgar, C.M.; Serjeantson, D. and Waldron, T. 2006. Food in Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Assessment methods

  • Practical quizzes (mainly identification exercises) - 50%
  • Written assignment - 40%
    This will consist of a critical essay on a methodological, and/or historical/theoretical aspect of zooarchaeology (students to choose one from a range of suggested topics). Word limit: 2000
  • Portfolio - 10%
    This consists of illustrations and notes collected by the student that will represent an essential – and portable – resource, especially when working ‘in the field’. The portfolio can include digital media such as DVDs with e.g. electronic copies of key publications, PDF of digitised skeletons, etc. There is no set word limit for this assignment


Programmes in which this module is compulsory

ProgrammeUCAS CodeProgramme length
MA OsteoarchaeologyV4001 years
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