The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

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

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.

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 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
  • evaluate and critique arguments and material
  • rite clear and concise reports


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

Study time allocation

Contact hours:48
Private study hours:102
Total study time: 150 hours

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


Resources and reading list

 These are the key books/articles for this module, all of them currently in the library:

  • 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
  • Brain, C. K. 1981. The Hunters or the Hunted? An introduction to African cave taphonomy. Chicago, Chicago University Press
  • Davis S. J. M. 1987. The Archaeology of Animals. London, Batsford
  • Driesch A. von den 1976. A guide to the measurement of animal bones from archaeological  sites, Peabody Museum Bulletin 1, Harvard
  • Lyman, R. L. 1994. Vertebrate taphonomy. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • O'Connor, T.P. 2000. The archaeology of animal bones. Gloucester, Sutton.
  • O’Connor, T.P. 2003. The Analysis of Urban Animal Bone Assemblages. Council for British archaeology.
  • Reitz, E. J. and E. S. Wing. 2008. Zooarchaeology. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Serjeantson, D. 2009. Birds. Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Wheeler, A. and A. K. G. Jones. 1989. Fishes. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Wilson, B., C. Grigson and S. Payne (Eds.) 1982. Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from  Archaeological Sites. Oxford, BAR.


Assessment methods


Assessment Method


% contribution to final mark

Final assessment (√)

  • 1. Bone tests




  • 2. Essay (c. 1500 words)




  • 3. Portfolio




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